On May 23, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) held a public meeting with representatives from its member agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, to discuss current approaches that are being used to minimize or replace animal use through the incorporation of alternatives. NAVS was proud to participate in this important conversation.
The public forum highlighted exciting progress being made on alternatives, including efforts to reduce animal use in vaccination studies, the success of the high-throughput robotic screening system used as part of a collaboration aimed at developing animal-free toxicity tests, and many of the developments made with tissue chips. The forum also served as an important platform to address hurdles that stand in the way of alternatives being more commonly used, with participants sharing strategies on how to overcome existing issues.
NAVS asked ICCVAM members how a constructive conversation on the reduction, refinement and replacement of animal use can take place, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not collect and report data on mice and rats—the animal species most often used in these kinds of studies. We also asked whether the panelists would support a regulatory change to start counting these animals.
Dr. Warren Casey, director of the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, addressed our questions, acknowledging the importance of having accurate and meaningful information on animal use, including information on how animals are used. NAVS, of course, has already taken important steps to increase transparency on animal use, although this approach will require substantial legislative changes.
Casey also mentioned that in the absence of our own data, the U.S. utilizes animal use data from Europe and Canada to help prioritize efforts. Despite these challenges, it is important to note that in communications following the ICCVAM forum, Casey assured NAVS that he is sincere in his goal of eliminating the need for animal testing.
We also had an opportunity to ask USDA representative Carol Clarke when the agency plans to restore public access to the Animal Care Search Tool interactive database, which was deactivated earlier in the year. She didn’t answer this question directly, and instead indicated that some information has been reposted, but not in the same format it was previously accessible.
The minimal information on animal use by our federal government that has been restored to the site represents a fraction of what had been previously available. At a time when so many Americans are clamoring for increased transparency and accountability, the continued suppression of this important information is unacceptable.
Please TAKE ACTION and demand that access to this information on animal use be fully restored.