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A smart movement to change animal testing.

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

We're at the beginning of the end of the animal testing era, one which future generations will look back at like an era of child labor or witch burning, and California Assembly Bill 357 (AB 357) is a great example of how we get there.

It doesn't matter what you think of rats and mice, this isn't right. (CBS News)

Animal testing is largely driven by inertia, traditional liability schemes, the science of 1938, and the fact that those who are brutalized are voiceless. The main law "protecting" animals in labs, the US Animal Welfare Act of 1966, excludes from protection rats and mice - the vast majority of animals used in research - along with amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, insects and, until 2023, did virtually nothing for birds until over 20 years of litigation forced USDA to do its minimal job with regards to them.

The animals that are covered under the AWA receive the barest, and barely monitored, "protections" in the horror show of labs whose image is cleanwashed in a patina of big money, white lab coats, and high technology. But if you think federally-regulated animal testing is OK, you don't know animal testing.

California's AB 357 would do some groundbreaking things:

  • Require companies and their contract testing facilities to use alternative testing methods when they are available and yield information that is equivalent or better than animal tests. California recognizing that we are in such an era is profound.

  • Require facilities that test on animals to annually report the number and species of animals used in tests, like the millions of rats and mice or the many beagles used because they have compliant demeanors and are quiet sufferers.

  • Require that labs document of the types of alternative tests used and the purpose of animals tests to put constant pressure on disrupting the inertia that underlies so much animal testing.

All three of these planks surface the specifics of animal testing and make testers own the abusive nature of it. Together these are criteria that will be firsts at the state or federal level in the US.

AB 357 makes a key yet unfortunate concession: It exempts testing done for medical research, making the bill more politically palatable but also hamstringing progress on human health. Remember AB 357 doesn't force an end to animal testing, it only requires fresh and rigorous examination of its use, seeking a reduction of it when that yields the best science. Don't we want that for human therapies? Instead, the safety of dish soap could be tested in smarter ways than the search for cancer cures in California.

Animal testing of potential human therapies is riddled with false positives and false negatives, ruling out potential cures while wasting time and money on ones that look promising in animals only to have 92% of them fail in human trials. Proven technologies like organs on chips and the application of AI techniques to large sets of human-centric data make infinitely more sense than assuming a rat is roughly a human. I recently joined the board of the Center for Contemporary Sciences to help shine light on this antiquated style of research.

Even if you don't give a damn about animals in labs or don't even live in California, you should be in favor of AB 357 to get the best research results for humans, using the prescriptive power of the law to move the human race forward.



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