BENGALURU: In a major victory for animal lovers, the Centre has finally banned the archaic and cruel eye and skin tests on rabbits for drug development. Toxicity studies shall now be done by using non-animal alternative as per guidelines of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Called as the Drugs and Cosmetic (seventh amendment) Rules, 2016, it was notified on November 4.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has mandated the use of currently available non-animal test methods instead of forcing rabbits to endure eye and skin irritation and corrosion tests. In fact, many animal welfare organisations had been pushing for a complete ban on Draize tests on rabbits as it involves restraining live rabbits while chemicals are applied to their eyes or shaved skin. The animals often suffer from ulcers, bleeding and even blindness.
Welcoming the ban, Humane Society International (HSI), India, People for Animals and PeTA, India said this move will put an end to the use of Draize irritation tests. “This is a historic decision by the health ministry. Thousands of rabbits will now be spared from one of the most cruel and infamous experiments on rabbits known to mankind,” said Alokparna Sengupta, deputy director of HSI-India. “This, in addition to the cosmetic testing ban passed in India in 2014, will provide the much-needed impetus for India to move towards more humane and advanced 21st century science.”
“By moving away from these tests, India will improve product safety and spare countless animal lives,” adds PeTA India Research Associate Dr Dipti Kapoor. “We look forward to a day when all animal tests are replaced with superior, humane non-animal methods,” Kapoor added.
According to PeTA, experimenters can avail modern, non-animal in-vitro methods at their disposal to test for skin and eye irritation and corrosion. These methods have been adopted by OECD, an international body responsible for publishing international test guidelines.
The Draize test was developed more than 70 years ago to measure eye and skin irritation using rabbits, who are locked in restraints while a test chemical is applied to one eye or to the shaved skin on their backs. Animals are monitored for up to two weeks, without pain relief, for signs of chemical damage, which can include swelling, ulceration, bleeding and blindness.