Canada’s cosmetic testing ban isn’t enough

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Did you know that animal testing is still legal in Canada? Across the country, millions of live animals — from dogs to cats to mice — are used to develop “cosmetics, household products, pesticides, drugs, and other substances.” What’s worse is that there is no limit on the testing, which can result in high levels of pain for the animals. Canada lags behind regions like the EU, which banned the practice all the way back in 2004. On January 20, 2023, however, the country took a step into modernity by announcing the development of a ban on the use of animals for cosmetic testing. It’s much too late, and nowhere near enough. 

In 2020, 5,067,778 animals were used as test subjects in Canada, according to the Canadian Council on Animal Care. The same report found that almost a million animals suffered from experiments that cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort, while nearly 100 thousand animals suffered from procedures that cause severe pain near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized, conscious animals. This is a clear violation of animals’ bodily autonomy. These animals are being tortured, and for virtually nothing. 

So in light of the terrible practice of Canadian animal testing, let’s evaluate the Canadian government’s lurch into the 21st century. According to The Globe and Mail, a new rule by the federal government is set to prevent the testing of a “range of products, including make-up, perfume, body lotion, hair-styling products, shaving foam, and nail polish” on animals. That’s a wonderful step forward, and it’ll save animals’ lives. But other forms of animal testing, including for chemical and drug toxicity, remained unbanned. The best the government can do, according to the article, is to incentivize organizations to “reduce reliance” on the practice. That’s shameful, disgusting, and born of a lie. 

Our assumptions about animal testing’s necessity is partly the result of exaggerations in published research. One study found that, among a randomly-selected group of releases “about animal or laboratory studies, most (64 of 87) explicitly claimed relevance to human health, yet 90% lacked caveats about extrapolating results to people.” In short, scientific studies overstated the findings from animal testing and their ability to repeat the results of an experience in humans. The same study found that press releases about animal studies were far more likely to contain exaggerations than studies on humans. 

And it’s not like we don’t have effective alternatives to animal testing. Among other methods, Organs-on-chips mimics the structure and function of human organs and cells. This method has been adopted by the FDA in the US to develop vaccines for COVID-19. There’s also the Epiderm Tissue Model — a 3-D, human-cell-derived model that provides superior indicators of how drugs react with human skin. The model can reliably replace testing on rabbits, which could save tens of thousands of rabbits each year.

Despite the availability of cutting-edge, effective means of displacing animal testing, experimenters continue to torture countless animals. The Canadian government needs to realize that animal testing is unnecessary and unethical by universally banning the practice. 

No more tiptoeing around the issue. Canada needs to take a world-leading stance in favor of animals’ rights.

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