With an estimated 600, 000 mice worldwide being used every year to test botox, the price of beauty is much more than just skin deep. Calls to end animals testing from member state NGO’s are being ignored even now that safe alternatives have EU approval.
By Alison Brown
Licensed in the EU as a medical treatment, Botox is exempt from stringent regulations implemented under the Cosmetics Directive. Amended in 2010, the directive aimed to put an end to animal testing by imposing both a testing and marketing ban on the production of cosmetics.
Latest statistics released by the European Commission show just over 12 million animals were used for experimental purposes in 2008, a figure the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) insists has remained unchanged to date.
Mice were identified as the most commonly used species accounting for 59% of the total use, followed by rats with 17%.
European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy said at the EU Animal Welfare Conference in February this year, that the issue was not the commission’s main priority.
“Although it is fair to say that there is an interest for animal welfare among EU consumers everywhere, the level of intensity varies and this interest is not always manifested in consumer choices. It is of particular importance to ensure that consumers get the information that they need in order to make their choices.”
The commissioner denied the opportunity to comment directly on the matter, instead emphasizing the view that: “ ‘Animal welfare’ is a permanent ‘work in progress’”.
The Reality of Botox
An undercover investigation conducted by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) in early 2011 found approximately 74,000 mice per annum were being used by Wickham Laboratories in Hampshire of the United Kingdom for the development of botox.
In a report released by BUAV, investigators found mice were cruelly exterminated through lethal injections of botulinumtoxin – the most powerful neurotoxin discovered to date.
Doctor Corina Gericke, Vice Chair of Chair of Doctors Against Animal Experiments (DAAE) explained the standard procedure carried out for Botox saw groups of mice injected with different doses of the botulinumtoxin in the abdomen.
“The test causes extensive pain and suffering. The animals undergo paralysis, impaired vision and respiratory distress. After three or four days of suffering they finally die from suffocation,” she said.
Yet for the mice those that survived this initial test, they were either killed by gassing or having their necks broken.
“Up to 60 mice at a time were loaded into the gas chamber and killed by carbon dioxide poisoning, a death that is far from instantaneous. According to Wickham’s own records, on just one day in July 2009, 989 mice were killed,” detailed the BUAV report.
A mouse is held by the scruff of the neck in preparation for a skin test Image: Doctors Against Animal Experiments
Dan Jørgensen, Member of the European Parliament for the Social Democrats and President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup acknowledged the need for tighter regulations regarding animal testing.
Jørgensen explained the current implementation of a mandatory data-sharing obligation for all companies in the EU, designed to encourage information sharing and eliminate competition in the market sector. Additionally if alternatives to animal tests are available, they must be used instead.
“Here we are tightening the rules on when you are able to use animal experiments or not and right now we are in the process of phasing out animal testing in cosmetics. In the future we hopefully won’t have any at all, because we can say we already have 8000 ingredients that are tested. So do we need to have any more animals suffering so that we can get a new nuance on lipstick?”
An Alternative Solution
On February 23, the pharmaceutical company Allergen, procured EU approval for the “first fully in vitro, cell-based assay [examination] test” in the production of Botox, eliminating the need for animal based testing.
In an official statement Allergan “estimated that use of the new assay will reduce the use of animal-based assay testing for Botox by up to 95 percent or more over the next three years, as other regulatory agencies around the world approve the new test.”
Dr. Gericke said the EU should put pressure on manufacturers to speed up the process of developing and validating alternatives to animal testing, or alternatively by purchasing a license from companies like Allergen for the cell test.
“The new EU Directive* on the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes demands that if it’s scientifically possible methods should be used which don’t use living animals,” said Gericke.
Pressure from the ECEAE and BUAV are now on national authorities in Germany and the United Kingdom, where the botox animal tests of pharmaceutical companies, Merz and Ipsen are still taking place to discontinue licensing the experiments.
EU reporter and animal activist, Peter Von Kohl supports these notions highlighting the ability of 21st century technology and data sharing between pharmaceutical companies as plenty of resources for eliminating animal testing.
“It is possible now artificially to achieve the same results just as precise and maybe even more for just one reason – and this has been shown in tests with mice and rats – that you cannot transfer the results directly from those animals to human beings. Research indicates that you could be doing more harm than good.”