EAST awarded the Lush Prize for Lobbying for securing toxicology testing reforms
Since our founding in 1999, we have worked unceasingly to save animals from animal experimentation. In pursuit of this goal we have conducted fearless investigations and research, marshalled international experts, and lobbied for changes to legislation and policy. This work has sought to end the unnecessary suffering and sacrifice of animals used in animal experiments and ensure research institutions adopt the 3R principles of Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement.
This year, we are honored to have this work acknowledged by the Lush Prize for Lobbying in recognition of our work to eliminate unnecessary animal testing from Taiwan’s chemical registration system. We were shortlisted alongside 10 outstanding international teams that are successfully changing the equation for animals used in research.
Why were we awarded the Lush Prize for Lobbying?
Under Taiwan’s regulatory framework, chemical companies who intend to produce or import a chemical substance are required to submit a completed registration dossier to authorities to assess any potential impacts of the substance. The dossier includes toxicology and eco-toxicology data, and most companies opt to use animal testing to gather this information. Large numbers of animals are used in these toxicity tests, including dropping chemical substances in the eyes of rabbits to assess irritation, feeding chemical substances to mice to determine lethal doses, among other harrowing experiments.
We couldn’t help but ask: is there not a better way?
We began exploring alternative ways of toxicity testing in 2018 and found that many countries already accept—or even require—the use of non-animal testing methods. In these countries, animal tests are required only when no alternatives exist. Demonstrating recent advancements non-animal testing methods, a 2018 study by John Hopkins University researchers found that advanced algorithms could already predict the toxicity of new chemical substances using data from large chemical databases —and do so more effectively than animal experimentation.
Conversely, our review of the relevant regulations in Taiwan found that there were no regulatory mechanisms to support a reduction in animal experiments. As a result, most chemical manufacturers continue to use the animal testing methods they are accustomed to, with little impetus to change.
After completing our analysis, we invited renowned expert Dr. Maurice Whelan to visit Taiwan. Dr. Whelan is the head of the EU Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). Working with legislator Shu-Fen Lin, we arranged a visit to the Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau (TCSB) at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
Together with Dr. Whelan and Legislator Lin, we met with the TCSB officials responsible for Taiwan's chemical substance registration system. After exchanging the latest scientific evidence and global progress, we successfully obtained a multi-pronged commitment to reduce animal tests conducted by chemical companies.
The TCSB agreed to achieve this by requiring companies prioritize animal-free methods when testing imported chemicals, and committing to further amend future regulations. These commitments represent major changes in Taiwan’s toxicity testing regime, and for the first time, official recognition of the need to move towards non-animal alternatives (see below for the full rundown!)
In June 2020, the EPA issued a new version of the guidance concerning the registration of existing chemicals. In addition to the aforementioned changes, the new guidance clearly encourages chemical companies to avoid unnecessary tests on animals and choose humane alternative methods whenever possible. It also allows chemical companies to utilize international scientific data to avoid duplicate animal testing.
At present, the guidance provides a new direction for industry. However, it is still not mandatory. With your support, we will strive to guarantee comprehensive legal protections for animals used in regulatory testing and scientific research.
Take a journey back through our work to protect animals used in science
In 2012, we conducted an investigation into the use of animals to test generic drugs. The investigation aimed to put a stop to pyrogen tests on live rabbits and endotoxin tests that endanger wild horseshoe crabs in favor of Monocyte Activation Tests (MAT), which use human blood to test for pyrogenic contamination.
In 2013, we published a report on the fitness of Taiwan’s supervisory and management frameworks for animal experiments. The report revealed five major systemic gaps and called on the competent authority to improve management and put an end to excessive and unnecessary animal experiments.
In 2014, we rescued eight beagles from a research facility. We used the occasion to draw attention to the deficiencies in the oversight of animal testing in Taiwan, and demand Taiwan’s Guidebook for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals be given legal force.
In the same year, we collaborated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to release a ground-breaking report to prevent unnecessary rabies virus tests on beagles. The report revealed a damning plan to use unvaccinated beagles to determine the infectivity of strains of the rabies virus (originally from ferret-badgers). We successfully prevented the tests from happening and saved at least 14 beagles.
In 2016, we completed a gut-wrenching investigation into the absurd use of white rabbits to produce freeze-dried lapinized vaccines for classical swine fever. In response, the Council of Agriculture (COA) agreed to end the use of live rabbits for the production of the vaccine from 2022.
In 2017, we recommended the COA to attend the 10th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences (WC10), which exposed officials to the global trend of replacing animals in scientific experiments. In 2020, the COA launched a four-year interagency project in conjunction with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). The project aims to gain an understanding of global trends, introduce internationally-validated alternatives, and develop new alternatives to conventional animal methods. This is the first time the government has launched such a procject.
In 2018, we published a scathing report into dubious animal tests conducted as part of the government’s health food certification label. The report caused the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) to review the necessity of animal testing in the health food scheme, and began to phase out spurious tests on animals.
In the same year, we successfully lobbied for the Guidelines for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals to be given legal force, meaning research institutions and animal care and use personnel are now obliged to abide by the guidelines. We also successfully lobbied the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to allocate the first-ever governmental funding for the development of animal-free alternatives in Taiwan.
In 2019, we, in partnership with the COA and three biomedical organizations, co-hosted Taiwan’s first International Symposium on Alternative for Animal Experiments.
To coincide with the event, we invited the head of the European Commission’s EURL ECVAM laboratory, Dr. Maurice Whelan, to visit officials at the EPA. Dr. Whelan shared international progress on animal testing alternatives. Together, we secured commitments from the EPA to minimize duplicate animal testing by adopting existing toxicity test results and requiring priority use of animal-free methods for imported chemicals.
These milestones are part of our ongoing quest to save animals from needless exploitation in research. With your support, we can continue to create a better future for animals in Taiwan.