World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has actively pressured government agencies in the United States, Europe, and Canada to greatly increase the amount of testing required for new and existing chemicals and pesticides. The result of WWF’s lobbying has been the establishment of some of the largest animal-testing programs of all time.
In the late 1990s, WWF actively lobbied for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) which was designed to screen thousands of chemicals for their potential to disrupt hormones. WWF invested substantial resources in the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee, which designated a battery of tests to be used in the first tier of the two-tiered screening program. WWF did not appear bothered by the fact that six of the 11 tests are animal-poisoning studies requiring a minimum of 600 animals for each chemical tested. According to scientific estimates at the time, the WWF-backed endocrine testing program threatened to kill 6 million or more animals for the 10,000 chemicals slated to be tested. Fortunately, the EPA recognized that because of time and cost restraints, evaluating that many chemicals using the original battery of tests was not possible and is now moving toward more human-relevant, non-animal methods of screening for potentially endocrine-disrupting chemicals (see our webpage on the EDSP and EDSP21).
WWF was also a major force behind the European Union’s introduction of the chemical-testing plan known as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), which has already led to the deaths of approximately 800,000 animals.
WWF’s U.S. and Canadian offices also called for more testing of pesticides, despite the fact that about 7,500 animals are already killed for every active ingredient in every pesticide on the market, with additional animals killed in testing various formulations of the pesticide. As a result, the EPA now requires that certain pesticides be tested for “developmental neurotoxicity” using a test that kills upwards of 1,300 animals each time it is conducted. However, EPA has made provisions that allow for waivers of this test or conducting the assessment as part of another study, thereby reducing the number of animals used.
WWF attempts to justify its position by saying that “in the absence of effective, validated alternatives, WWF believes that limited animal testing is needed for the long-term protection of wildlife and people throughout the world.” However, there is nothing “limited” about the massive amount of animal testing that WWF has endorsed.
Dr. Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate in medicine, pointed out in 1981: “It is simply not possible with all the animals in the world to go through new chemicals in the blind way that we have at the present time, and reach credible conclusions about the hazards to human health.” Now, 35 years later, millions of animals are still dying in painful chemical toxicity tests, and we are no closer to removing dangerous chemicals from the environment. WWF has put considerable effort into encouraging the adoption of regulations in Europe that would curb the production of toxic chemicals and people’s exposure to them, but has made little effort to develop or support regulations in the U.S. that would limit exposure.
While WWF has issued some statements in the past regarding the importance of developing alternatives to animal testing and not using “outdated or unnecessary animal tests”, it still seems to believe that testing on animals for human health and environmental safety purposes is appropriate and justified. Given the great progress that has been made in non-animal approaches to chemical safety evaluation, PETA recently sent a letter to WWF asking for their current stance on animal testing issues. Read what Sir Paul McCartney had to say to WWF on October 10, 2002, and March 24, 2003.