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Testifying at the Massachusetts State House for the Animals (S.459/H.2933)

Testifying at the Massachusetts State House for the Animals (S.459/H.2933)

Last Tuesday, September 12, I testified on behalf of NEAVS at a Massachusetts State House public hearing in support of S.459/H.2933, a bill that aims to reduce the use of animals in product testing in the Commonwealth. Public hearings such as this one are an important part of the democratic process. Anyone can testify directly to their legislators as to why they are in support of or in opposition to a bill. It’s an opportunity for advocacy organizations like NEAVS, as well as ordinary citizens, to have their voices heard. At this hearing, many bills relating to a range of animal issues were considered, and I was proud and inspired to see so many advocates and citizens speaking out for animals.

The particular bill I testified on (S.459/H.2933) would reduce the use of animals in product testing in the Commonwealth by requiring that when an appropriate non-animal alternative test method or strategy is available it must be used. There are several reasons that Massachusetts should pass this bill:

  • It would save numerous animals from unnecessary suffering. Every year, tens of thousands of animals suffer and die in the U.S. for product testing. Harsh chemicals are rubbed into their skin, forced down their throats, and dripped into their eyes, sometimes over a prolonged period of time, resulting in painful, lingering deaths.
  • 21st century science is rapidly moving away from the use of animals in research and testing. Animal research and testing often fails to mimic human pathophysiology and accurately predict human responses, but scientific advances such as 3-D printing, artificial human tissue, and sophisticated computer programs allow researchers to better assess the safety of drugs, chemicals, cosmetics, and consumer products. There are many examples of a shift away from animal testing happening around the globe. For example, Dr. Jacobson-Kram, former executive director for pharmacology and toxicology of the FDA has stated, “We want to migrate away from animal testing.” And in the EU, a 2010 directive mandates that when scientifically satisfactory non-animal alternatives are available they must be used. Closer to home, at the Harvard/MIT Wyss Institute, scientists are already leading the way in alternatives with their development of organs-on-chips.
  • It would align Massachusetts with other scientific leaders. As a global leader in science and technology, Massachusetts is nearly always a top recipient of National Institute of Health (NIH) research dollars; in 2017, it was second only to California. Notably, California, as well as New York, the third highest recipient of NIH dollars, have already passed laws similar to S.459/H.2933. The NIH’s 2016-2020 research strategic plan in fact states that, “To improve the efficiency, relevance, and accuracy of preclinical research, NIH will catalyze powerful innovations…that will be better than animal models. … Petri dish and animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies.” As a top recipient of NIH funding, Massachusetts clearly has a vested interest in aligning its scientific goals and practices with those of the NIH, and the passage of S.459/H.2933 would also signal the state’s shared commitment with NIH to move away from animal use.

In sum, S.459/H.2933 would minimize animal testing in the Commonwealth and encourage the development of faster, more cost-effective, and more reliable testing methods, ultimately both delivering better results for human health and safety and also reducing unnecessary animal suffering.