Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

REACH: A huge victory

Posted: 14 April 2007

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When the REACH (Regulation, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) proposals emerged five years ago, it came with a death sentence for in the region of 38 million laboratory animals. This animal holocaust has not been blocked altogether, but in the region of 30 million animals have been saved – a tally it is unlikely that any other single campaign could match. There has been little publicity for the anti-vivisection campaign against REACH – fought at a time when the media has concentrated on ‘extremist’ activities, leaving the REACH focus on environmental and human protection. The REACH campaign has been fought with scientific reports, briefings, meetings, and those so important postcards and letters from supporters – if you wrote when we asked you to, you helped save lives.

The REACH Regulation was formally adopted on 18th December 2006 by the European Council of Ministers following the vote in the European Parliament five days earlier, after tough bargaining between the two institutions. It comes into force on 1st June 2007. The final text contains a section on reduction and replacement of animal testing including measures such as mandatory data sharing. The regulation also defines animal experiments as the last resort of testing and introduces a policy of research into alternatives as a top priority. So some of our key objectives have been met. But this is not the end of the campaign. The administration of these new regulations allows for us to continue to exert influence, especially in the area of introduction of non-animal alternative testing strategies so, with your support, we will continue to lobby to get animal tests completely out of REACH.

The original proposals in 2003 contained no mention of alternatives to animal tests. Concerns for human health and the environment had led the Commission to act, and this was the main focus. The 850-page text aimed to register and re-test all chemicals on the market before 1981.

While the goals of REACH were commendable, the means were not. ADI and NAVS developed a unique strategy of presenting better testing (non-animal) methods and better ways for REACH to work – good for animals and good for industry. We produced briefings for MEPs and the Commission, and sponsored amendments. Postcards from our supporters to their MEPs were everywhere in the European Parliament.

Our report ‘Keep animals out of REACH’ outlined “an advanced science and technology testing strategy” to replace all animal testing under REACH. These new methods continue to advance; Antidote, based in Strasbourg, has developed a computerised platform capable of managing a series of robots to test hundreds of substances in record time at low cost – combining effective research for health with industrial competitiveness. These new technologies, combined with requirements for manufacturers to share their data and the banning of known dangerous chemicals with no further testing, as well as other measures, have all steadily cut the anticipated death toll that REACH would have caused.

Sadly, the European chemical industry favoured a narrow-minded approach throughout the REACH legislative process, preferring to sabotage the process rather than taking into account consumers’ concerns for their health and animal welfare.

There were the usual ups and downs of any political campaign – jubilation when the Environment Committee amended REACH and severely limited animal testing. But just weeks later, this progress was slashed in Plenary Session when the industry interests swayed the decision. Our supporters, however, never gave up and MEPs received thousands of postcards and letters throughout the process.

This campaign has contributed considerably to raising awareness about animal testing in the EU and the Commission has now launched a partnership with industry to engage them in efforts to reduce animal testing.

Beyond REACH

This year the European Commission is revising Directive 86/609/EEC, which regulates the use of animals in experiments. So once again, we will be counting on you, our supporters, to help save as many animals as possible and fight for a ban on the use of primates in experiments in the EU.

When you complete your campaign postcards (included with this issue) remember that each postcard you send is a mighty sword that is saving lives.
Don’t forget to pass cards to your friends and family so that they can help, too.

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