London - The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation UK has submitted a complaint to the European ombudsman today alleging that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is failing to fulfil its mandated responsibilities by not properly investigating cases in which animal testing could be avoided under the rules of REACH. The European ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions and agencies, and PETA maintains that evidence derived from public documents and correspondence with the agency demonstrates that ECHA is not taking the necessary steps to ensure that REACH's legal requirement that animal testing be conducted only as a "last resort" are fulfilled.
The REACH Regulation (1907/2006/EU) makes clear in recitals, articles and annexes that animal tests must be avoided wherever possible, but in 2011 the agency's report "The Use of Alternatives to Testing on Animals for the REACH Regulation" showed that tens of thousands of animals were used in tests that could have been avoided under REACH's own rules. These tests included 135 skin-irritation studies conducted after a non-animal replacement had been validated and approved for use under REACH and 107 studies conducted without prior submission and approval of a testing proposal.
In response to the report, PETA UK contacted ECHA and the European Commission to seek assurances that all such possible violations of the requirements were being investigated by the agency and/or notified to relevant national authorities. These enquiries have revealed the following:
- ECHA is not taking action to investigate all the 107 tests conducted without test proposals and will not routinely investigate similar cases in the future.
- ECHA does not directly inform member state authorities of all possible violations of last-resort requirements identified by its own internal processes.
- During compliance checks, ECHA evaluates only whether or not adaptations to animal test requirements comply with the REACH Regulation, not whether animal tests themselves could have been avoided.
PETA UK has therefore submitted a complaint to the ombudsman, which notes that in failing to take appropriate action to evaluate compliance of animal tests with REACH's requirements, the agency is guilty of maladministration.
"REACH has multiple mechanisms to mitigate its massive impact on animals, but the European institution responsible for ensuring REACH compliance is simply not ensuring that all of those mechanisms are being implemented," says PETA UK policy adviser Alistair Currie. "We have pursued this issue with ECHA itself and with the European Commission but without resolution. With millions of animals' lives at stake, we trust that the ombudsman will take our view that the agency is failing to fulfil its obligations."
Copies of PETA's complaint and relevant correspondence are available on request.
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