Monday is World Day for Laboratory Animals, and over the last few months, the media have helped to expose the terrible plight of lab animals in Canada. A recent W5 Investigative report revealed the abysmal conditions under which animals undergo cruel research activities to bring new products and drugs to market. The investigation further revealed that animals used in these tests are not only subject to severe pain and distress (as a result of deliberate chemical poisoning without pain relief), but are often also the victims of abuse and mistreatment, unrelated to the tests themselves.
People across the country were shocked and horrified to see such suffering happening right here at home. For us here at Humane Society International/Canada, it just reinforced an all too familiar malaise; it was also a stark reminder of the countless hurdles we still need to overcome to bring Canadian standards in line with the dozens of other countries that have already made strides in confronting cruelty in laboratories around the world. Dogs thrown and slammed into cages, macaques suspended by their limbs -- these are just a few of the images that made it into the highlight reel of the aforementioned investigation, fittingly taken from hours of torturous footage that didn't make the cut.
And while we are making progress every day to achieve real results for lab animals across the country, the unfortunate reality is that the animal testing industry in Canada remains largely unregulated.
A year ago, we were successful in convincing the Canadian government to join the ranks of other nations, such as the United States, to drop the one-year dog pesticides test, which has been proven to be scientifically unnecessary. In these tests, beagles are taken from their mothers at just six months old to be fed pesticides every day for a year until they are killed and are subsequently examined for organ damage. This landmark decision will save hundreds of beagles from being killed every year.
Most recently, the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (S-214), a bill to end cosmetic animal testing in Canada, passed its second reading in the Senate and is being studied in committee before making its way to the House of Commons.
Introduced in 2015, bill S-214 is currently the only piece of legislation that addresses a very specific (and unnecessary) area of animal testing. And it's not just consumers who want to see change -- in fact, more than 500 cosmetic companies are certified as cruelty-free and produce products without animal suffering. They rely on thousands of existing ingredients already established as safe, combined with the growing list of available state-of-the-art non-animal test methods.
If passed, it would permanently ban the use of animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients, as well as the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics in Canada. According to recent surveys, eight out of every ten Canadians supports it, along with dozens of leading beauty brands that see a future where animals are not made to suffer for lipstick or hair conditioner.
This legislation will not compromise the safety of Canadian consumers. Rather, it will help to reduce the nearly 3.5 million animals who are used to test drugs, household products and cosmetics each year in Canada alone.
The Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act will also strengthen trade with the ever-growing number of global markets banning cosmetic animal testing and/or sales -- including the European Union (the world's largest beauty market), Norway, Switzerland, Israel, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and several states in Brazil.
Another benefit is how it will drive Canadian science innovators to develop new, more predictive testing solutions, with positive impacts for consumer safety and the economy. And while its successful passage won't directly help the animals affected in the W5 investigation, it will serve to alleviate some of the suffering that is so prevalent in Canada today, as well as set a precedence for animal welfare in Canada.
The time has come for the Canadian government to step forward, take action and bring the country into the 21st century. How we treat animals is a reflection of our values, and Canadians will no longer tolerate the wanton indifference of our status quo.
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