Alternative Methods to animal testing

Following a series of protests that took place in Brasil recently, the “Instituto Royal” in São Roque (60 km away from São Paulo) was targeted in October. Protesters justified their actions by saying they are repudiating alleged animal abuse suffered in the course of product testing in the laboratory.

The events unfolded firstly by the activists freeing approximately 200 beagles and then a week later, and with the same boldness, they freed a further 300 mice. 

The laboratory has exempted itself from reproach and proved that it has acted in accordance with current regulations, meeting all of the administrative, sanitary and animal testing control entities’ requirements. 

Activists adopted an improper and illegal manner to demonstrate that they were against the use of animals in laboratory testing. These activists did not take into account that the testing in question is essential to the development of drugs for which no alternative testing methods can be employed. 

As advanced as worldwide alternative testing methods have become, the scientific community is still unable to proclaim that they will be able to completely replace animal testing. 

The Brazilian Society of Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments (SBMAlt), in a statement signed by their president, Jadir Nunes, asserted that “the challenge to keep to a minimum or even eliminate the use of animals in some areas of scientific research is one that has been put to scientists in a welcoming setting of debate and reflection”. The statement mentions several limitations to the various alternative methods, adding that, however “the contribution of technology has improved substitutive methods in order to make them more efficient, safe and affordable, including assisting in the minimising of the use of animals”. 

Cosmetics & Toiletries Brasil magazine (Nov/Dec 2013 issue) contains the article “Alternative toxicological testing in animals” by Maria Ines Harris, in which the author describes the alternative methods to animals testing available. She declares that we should “support the ban of most trials which are unjustified in light of current technological developments.” 

The author justifies the use of alternative methods by saying that “animal experiments cannot be considered perfect: on the contrary, it is known that there is no 100% correlation.” This article presents several alternative methods, however, in many of these methods parts of living beings are still being used (skin from surgery or parts from slaughtered animals). 

Even so, the pressures for the adoption of alternative methods to animal testing continue. Proof of this can be seen in the recent decision made by the China Food Drug Administration (CFDA) to revoke their demand for animal testing to evaluate the safety of locally manufactured cosmetic products. 

It seems we are at an impasse. On one hand there are still scientific and economic limitations on banning animal testing, on the other hand there is an outcry from society denouncing it. 

Both the scientific advances in this field and the limitations of traditional alternative methods need to be communicated to the public in order that they can make more informed judgements. .

Hamilton dos Santos is the Publisher of the magazine Cosmetics & Toiletries Brasil

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