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February 19, 2009

The HSUS Calls on US Government to 'Hop to It' and End Rabbit Skin Tests

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund issued a challenge to U.S. agencies to make 2009 the year the book is closed on animal skin irritation testing forever. This call from the nation's largest animal protection organizations comes hot on the heels of a move by the European Union to formally adopt several sophisticated cellular test methods as complete replacements to the use of rabbits and other animals to test cosmetics, consumer products, pesticides and other chemicals for their potential to irritate the skin. Once the new methods are adopted, skin irritancy testing on animals will be prohibited under EU law, which forbids experiments on animals where alternative methods are "reasonably and practicably available."

Until now, skin irritation testing has involved locking rabbits into full-body restraints while a test substance is applied without pain relief to the shaved skin on their back for up to four hours. The degree of irritation is observed and scored at specified time intervals over a 14-day period, at the end of which the animals are killed. Now, however, it is possible to test for skin irritation using three-dimensional reconstructions of human skin using cells grown in culture, which have been shown to readily distinguish between skin irritants and non-irritants at a fraction of the time and cost of animal testing.

"Today we celebrate the first step toward eliminating one of the oldest and most widely criticized animal tests in history," said HSLF executive director Sara Amundson. "At the same time, we recognize and are taking steps to close the ever-widening gap between the U.S. and European regulators in terms of willingness to embrace sophisticated and humane testing methods based on 21st century science."

More than two dozen animal testing alternatives have already been endorsed as scientifically valid and/or adopted into testing regulations in the EU, yet only a small handful of these have received reciprocal recognition or acceptance by relevant U.S. agencies. Consequently, some companies may be forced to double-test their products––using non-animal methods in Europe and conventional animal tests in the U.S. in order to continue marketing in both regions.

Securing government acceptance and corporate use of proven non-animal testing methods is a top priority for us, and we are prepared to take necessary steps to change the US from the weakest link to a world leader in this area.

Photographs of the EU-endorsed non-animal test methods may be downloaded here.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Online at hslf.org.

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