Environmental Protection Agency Director Andrew Wheeler proclaimed that the EPA would reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mammals in toxicity tests by 2035.

The purported basis for this retreat from science is the claim that computer simulations and cell culture (or “in vitro” methods) can fully achieve the same results.

Research using the full organism is referred to as “in vivo” (in life) research. While research may be directed at one distinct metabolic pathway simulated on a computer or in a tissue culture, it is absolutely vital to know of any additional effects that occur in the fabulously complex organism. That is complexity that neither a computer nor tissue culture can copy.

The EPA is in charge of protecting the environment, which includes testing for toxic effects of new chemicals. A computer may be able to predict the effect of a new chemical on a specific tissue. But inside the body, organs such as the liver and kidney break such chemicals into additional metabolic products that cannot be predicted and which, in turn, often have additional bad effects. The computer and tissue culture will never detect those byproducts and their toxicity.

In an Associated Press report, Professor Aaron Bowman, head of Purdue University’s School of Health Sciences, warned that “The new testing methods may not capture fully all of human physiology. So animal models help us avoid missing something unexpected and dangerous.”

The classic example of this was the discovery of penicillin’s bacterial inhibition zone by Alexander Fleming in 1928. When he tried to use this chemical secreted by the mold against pathogens in blood agar — an “in vitro” culture — he saw no significant effect and abandoned penicillin as an antibiotic. Only when Howard Florey and Ernst Chain grew penicillin and used it “in vivo” in mice (given otherwise fatal doses of Streptococcus) was its antibiotic effectiveness confirmed.

In other words, had this new directive by Wheeler been in effect for bioresearch back then, we would not have penicillin today.

Why has Wheeler, a lawyer who represented coal interests and was put in this position due to his anti-climate change views, proposed this non-science? The rationale fits well with the animal rights extremists: PETA, the Humane Society of the U.S. and White Coat Waste.

The Director of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals’ regulatory testing department told AP that PETA is eager to assist in this transition to alternative test methods. The White Coat Waste Project, another animal rights group, focused on the cost of animal research and called the Wheeler plan a “big win for taxpayers....”

Actual biologists such as Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council, note ending genuine animal testing “is going to allow potentially dangerous chemicals to get out there into the environment and into consumer products.”

White Coat Waste was likewise an actor in getting the USDA in April of this year, to end research with cats and the disease they carry — toxoplasmosis — that is very dangerous to humans during pregnancy.

Look in the world class journals Science and Nature and you will find cutting edge research based on animal models in every issue. Just this last issue of Science featured a study of vaping using mice, and another showing the interaction of spinal nerves and prostate cancer...using mice.

These recent actions are a continuation of restrictions on animal research that is moving the United States closer to several European nations where animal rightists and anti-vivisectionists have essentially halted animal research. The ultimate result is to drive future research that requires animal-based studies to foreign countries, particularly Asia.

Let me repeat. Such restrictions on U.S. research will ensure that more future breakthroughs will be made outside the United States.

(3) comments

SnowGypsy

Things have changed since 1928, nearly 100 years ago, so I didn't understand making that comparison. If what we have been doing is so effective, why are people ingesting and breathing in toxic substances? So, they know the chemicals are poisonous, they still put them in the foods, the air and the water. I see no reasons to cause suffering especially when they get no better results than they do, or when they appear to ignore the results and put the poisons out there anyway. Perhaps they have a fetish about watching lesser mammals suffer?

KimMarie108

I'm glad the EPA is getting with the times. Progressive scientists know that experimenting on animals is unethical, inaccurate, and wasteful.

LucyP

We have advanced, humane methods available to determine toxicity. There’s no excuse for testing on animals, especially since physical differences between species mean that results from tests on animals cannot be accurately applied to humans and are often fatally misleading.

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