The next administration must work through our federal agencies to implement the following recommendations from the Physicians Committee to advance science and save human and animal lives.
- Train the next generation of scientists and doctors with human-relevant research and training methods. The Physicians Committee has ended the use of animals in undergraduate medical training and is making progress in ending specialist trainings using animals, but animals are still killed by surgeons- and doctors-in training. And shockingly few universities provide training in advanced, human-relevant research techniques for graduating biomedical scientists and toxicologists. The administration must launch student and early-career training initiatives to ensure our scientists are prepared for 21st-Century science and our doctors are prepared for their human patients.
- Expand oversight of laboratories and openly share information on how many animals are used in experiments. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed information on animal facilities from its website, only restoring it after lawsuits from the Physicians Committee and other groups. In 2018, USDA enforcement of animal laboratories plummeted: Citations dropped 65% from 2017 levels. We need the new administration to get serious. Monitor experimenters and enforce animal welfare laws. We currently don’t have any idea how many animals are used in research and testing every year or how they are used—but the public deserves to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
- Invest in human-relevant research models, not more animal experiments, for our deadliest diseases. The 2020 National Institutes of Health’s agencywide and COVID-19 draft strategic plans were disappointing in their reliance on outdated animal experiments. Given the deadly diseases facing our nation, we need the world’s largest funder of medical research to lead the way in funding human-relevant research and human-based models, tools, and technologies. As we learned from previous coronavirus epidemics—SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012–experiments on nonhuman animals have not translated to treatments or vaccines for coronavirus diseases. And despite the failure of nearly every single treatment—all developed using animals—for Alzheimer’s Disease, the NIH is doubling down on this failed strategy, asking researchers to develop “new model species” of the disease—including dogs, pigs, and other animals.
- Require alternatives to animal tests for the testing and production of drugs, vaccines, and other medical products. Every new medicine is required by Food and Drug Administration regulations to be tested in animals prior to entering human clinical trials, despite major physiological differences between animal and human responses to drugs. Similarly, all vaccines and injected drugs are required to be tested for fever-causing contamination, and the most prevalent test method relies on a special enzyme system found in horseshoe crab blood, a threatened species. However, there are nonanimal methods available for many of these tests. The agency must change its regulations and guidance so that companies use these groundbreaking technologies.
- Protect the environment and public health from dangerous chemicals by supporting EPA’s commitment to eliminate animal testing. On Sept. 10, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency committed to eliminating tests on mammals, following years of pressure from the Physicians Committee and other groups. Since then, the EPA has made significant strides toward reducing animal use. Most recently, the EPA announced a new draft policy that will allow companies to avoid conducting a painful rabbit test for new pesticides and cleaning products, saving 750 animals each year. This decision not only saves animals—it also frees up resources at companies and at the EPA, funds that can be spent on replacing even more animal tests with human-relevant methods, helping to ensure that the EPA realizes its mission to protect human health and the environment while achieving the goal it shares with the Physicians Committee of eventually replacing all animal tests. In the next four years, EPA must increase its investment in science and technology, train staff, and make additional policy changes to stay on track.
- End combat trauma training and replace it with superior methods. The men and women who serve in the U.S. military deserve the best medical training possible. Yet the Department of Defense continues to train personnel in combat trauma courses using animals when superior human-relevant methods are widely available. More than 8,500 goats and pigs each year are often stabbed, shot with firearms, burned, and have their limbs amputated before being killed. The use of animals in this training is unnecessary and has been phased out of nearly all civilian trauma programs and an increasing number of military training centers, which now use high-tech simulators modeled on human anatomy to teach the procedures that some military personnel still learn on animals.