Decade of Advocacy

AV magazine issue 2, 2011 2011 Issue #2 AAVS + Advocacy Campaigns for Lasting Change
Sue A. Leary

Founded in 1883 by social reformer and humane movement pioneer Caroline Earle White, the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) spans three centuries of advocacy on behalf of animals used in science. While there have been some dark days, there have also been social advances that have positively impacted the welfare of animals, and this progress lays a foundation for a compassionate transformation that can benefit animals and humans alike. The past decade points to what lies ahead in what may be a turning point in our fight for animals.

Leaders of Tomorrow
AAVS opened the 21st century with "The Cycle of Kindness: humane children for a humane world," an issue of the AV Magazine discussing the importance of fostering compassion and respect for animals in young people. AAVS took the opportunity to renew its characteristic emphasis on young people and humane science education with an expansion of Animalearn, our program that builds on the natural affinity of children and animals. Animalearn's expertise and resources have been welcomed enthusiastically by students, parents, activists, and educators. This positive development is a hopeful sign that we can expect to see more compassionate citizens and humane scientists become the decision-makers of the future.

Gentle Hand of Science
Seeking sound scientific solutions to the problem of animal experimentation, AAVS has been a leader in promoting and funding the development of alternative, non-animal methods. Our affiliate, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation (ARDF), has grown in influence with its nationally recognized grant programs and partnership in key efforts that are changing the way science does business.

Notably, in 2007, the National Academy of Sciences released a report entitled "Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy." The report sent shock waves through the vast enterprise of government and industry players whose job it is to determine if products are safe and effective. It soundly criticized the industry's reliance on animal models that involve immense suffering and do not tell us what we really need to know about chemical safety. The report has precipitated a paradigm shift in thinking about intelligent testing design, and the power of the report lies in its authorship: science leaders who rally their peers to use the knowledge and technology of the 21st century to do a better job of protecting public health.

Various plans to move the vision forward are underway, and ARDF is playing a role with its grant program and sponsorship of cooperative efforts to accelerate the shift.

Countdown to a Cruelty-Free World
A growing market share of consumers refuses to buy cosmetic and household products that have been tested on animals, and AAVS has been at the forefront of efforts to empower these compassionate consumers. AAVS helped create a stringent cruelty-free certification called the Leaping Bunny Program, which AAVS has chaired since 2007, and under AAVS's leadership, there has been enormous growth in the number of companies certified by Leaping Bunny.

A possible delay of the 2013 European ban on the sale of products whose ingredients have been tested on animals points to the essential role of a voluntary program built on people power.

Animals in Research Need Our Help
In spite of AAVS's extraordinary efforts, the vast majority (up to 95 percent) of animals used in research laboratories still do not receive any protections from the Animal Welfare Act, which formally excludes lab-bred birds, mice, rats, and fish. Genetically engineered mice are the favored lab animal of the day, and their suffering is both routine and unimaginable. The use of fish is growing exponentially, but no one knows how many live and die in labs.

The news on primates, however, is mixed. One of the great triumphs for animals in the past decade has been chimpanzee retirement. AAVS was instrumental in this effort, which established a federal sanctuary system for chimps formerly used in research with the enactment of the Chimpanzee Health, Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act in 2000. Seven years later, retirement for chimpanzees was made permanent. While this is certainly an important win for chimps, the bad news is that the numbers of other primates used in research are increasing. Biomedical researchers have dug in their heels to resist any regulation, and the National Institutes of Health, which funds most university research on animals, has backed them up with our tax dollars.

AAVS and others, including innovative scientists, are seeking to extend the new paradigm of in vitro chemical testing to drug testing and disease research. This is the challenge—and promise—of the next decade.

Read more from this issue of the AV Magazine
Ending the Use of Animals in Science