EPA chief announces plan to eliminate reliance on animal research
By Carlin Becker
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler directed his department to phase out the use of animal research and allocated $4.25 million to advance research on alternative methods that can better predict potential hazards.
In a memo signed on Tuesday, Wheeler outlined the EPA’s plan to reduce requests for and funding of mammal studies by 30% by 2025, and to eliminate such requests and funding by 2035. Any mammal studies requested or funded after 2035 will require administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.
The EPA will work to replace animal research with new approach methods (NAMs) that are found to be “equivalent or better than the animal tests replaced” and will “remain fully protective of human health and the environment.” The department will also award $4.25 million to five universities to research alternative test methods and strategies.
“This is an effort that the agency will undertake over the next 16 years to improve the science we use for scientific decision and eliminate the need for animals tests,” Wheeler said at a press conference. “This is a longstanding personal belief on my behalf.”
The move was welcomed by several lawmakers and animal welfare groups who have opposed the department’s history of subjecting rodents, rabbits, and other mammals to taxpayer-funded experiments, which have involved force feeding them lard and coconut oil, forcing them to breathe diesel exhaust, ozone and smog, as well as electrocuting them before ultimately euthanizing them.
“Animal testing is often cruel and painful, with limited applicability to human health outcomes. Non-animal research is more accurate, more cost effective, and more humane,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said. “I commend the EPA for their decision, and hope other departments and agencies will follow suit.”
“I thank the EPA for recognizing that we can protect animals and taxpayers by curbing the use of animals in research where scientifically-proven alternatives are readily available,” Rep. Ken Calvert of California added.
Justin Goodman, vice president of Advocacy and Public Policy at taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project, additionally applauded the initiative as the “most comprehensive and aggressive plan in U.S. history” to cut waste and curb the use of and reliance on animal research.
Wheeler’s announcement builds upon progress the department has been making under the Trump administration to reduce its reliance on animal experiments, which has saved over 200,000 laboratory animals in recent years.
As the EPA moves to eliminate such research, several other federal agencies have also moved towards phasing out their own animal experiments, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.