PETA makes animal testing Albert Gore’s albatross

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1999:

 

WASHINGTON D.C.––People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals served
notice in July that Vice President Albert
Gore’s support of the Environmental
Protection Agency’s High Production Volume
Challenge chemical safety testing program will
be an issue in the 2000 presidential campaign––whether
he likes it or not.
In early July, PETA opened an
office in Manchester, New Hampshire, the
city where the most voters will cast ballots in
the first 2000 primary election. Covering the
windows with posters linking Gore to animal
testing, PETA was accused of violating the
office lease by property manager Patrick
Vatalaro, who had the posters removed.


That flap had barely settled when
PETA began broadcasting anti-Gore TV ads in
New Hampshire, Iowa, and Tennessee. Iowa
and Tennessee will host the second and third
2000 presidential primaries.
Gore’s Iowa campaign director,
Steve Hildebrand, told Ryan Pearson of the
Des Moines Register that the HPV program is
“a policy issue, not a campaign issue.”
Gore’s record on animal protection
issues is among the worst among major candidates
in recent memory. Gore and President
Bill Clinton have defended the Endangered
Species Act against Republican opposition in
Congress, for instance, by easing ESA
enforcement and by moving to shift blame for
species becoming endangered from habitat loss
and exploitation to competition from nonnative
species (see page one).
Gore personally took a leading role
in allowing Norway to resume commercial
whaling in defiance of the International
Whaling Commission moratorium; encouraging
the Makah tribe to resume whaling; and
cracking the 1989 global ban on sales of elephant
ivory. Gore hunts. And prominent Gore
supporters have also taken negative positions
on animal protection.
In early July, for instance, Health
and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala
wrote to Judge William Foust, of Madison,
Wisconsin, requesting leniency for Chad
Alvarez, 23, if he is convicted of killing a
former fraternity brother’s Quaker parrot in a
microwave oven. Alvarez, the son of
University of Wisconsin football coach Barry
Alvarez, allegedly killed the parrot as revenge
for being twitted about a drunk driving conviction.
Alvarez on July 23 pleaded innocent to
felony theft and cruelty charges.
An acquaintance, Scott Rice, wrote
to Judge Foust that the accused had been cruel
to animals on at least two previous occasions.
U.S. Senators John Breaux and Mary
Landrieu, both Democrats from Louisiana,
meanwhile led Congressional opposition to a
bill to bar interstate transportation of gamecocks.
Cockfighting is illegal in all states
except Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New
Mexico. But wise-use Republicans too were
compromised on that point, as former U.S.
Senator from Idaho Steve Symms lobbied
against the bill for gamecock owners’ front
groups in Oklahoma and Texas.
Leading Republican presidential
candidate and Texas governor George W.
Bush is also a hunter, who enjoys strong support
from hunter/conservationist organizations.
But as Gore took hits, Bush strengthened his
record on endangered species by assigning 65
Texas game wardens to join National Marine
Fisheries Service agents and the U.S. Coast
Guard in enforcing sea turtle protection during
the Gulf of Mexico shrimping season.
Oversight
Earlier, Gore’s scientific credibility
was questioned, along with that of the
Environmental Defense Fund, at a June 17
Congressional hearing on the HPV program.
House of Representatives Energy
and Environment subcommittee chair Ken
Calvert (R-California) put the onus on Gore
right from his first sentence.
“The HPV program,” Calvert
explained, “announced by Vice President Al
Gore on the eve of Earth Day 1998, is supposed
to fill knowledge gaps about roughly
2,800 chemicals that are produced in volumes
exceeding one million pounds. Once the data
are gathered, which is supposed to take four
years, it will be summarized and placed on the
Internet under the EPA’s Chemical Right-toKnow
Initiative web page.”
The data is to be gathered in two
phases. Outlined Calvert, “The EPA, in partnership
with the Chemical Manufacturers
Association, the Environmental Defense
Fund, and the American Petroleum Institute,
[have] developed a plan to ‘voluntarily’ test
the 93% of HPV chemicals” for which the
EPA claims to lack data. “Companies that do
not volunteer,” Calvert said, “will be included
in a more stringent mandatory test rule.
“I have some serious reservations
about this program,” Calvert stated. “It is my
understanding that it will use animal subjects
to assess the toxicity of some chemicals that
may already have sufficient in-use and test
data. Much of the testing will use the LD-50,”
which “calls for dosing animal test subjects
with a substance until 50% have died. This
will be a serious problem with low-toxicity
substances such as corn oil and molasses.”
Complaining that the EPA had taken
more than two months to answer basic questions
about the HPV program asked on March
26 by House Science Committee chair Jim
Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisconsin), Calvert
hoped that, “Maybe through this hearing––by
shining some light on the process––we can
eliminate unnecessary animal testing.”
Agreed ranking minority subcommittee
member Jerry Costello (D-Illinois),
“Common sense tells us that we should not
retest chemicals that have already been tested.
For those chemicals that need to be tested,”
Costello added, “I hope we will be able to use
as many non-animal tests as possible.”
Calvert called three witnesses: EPA
Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics
chief William Sanders; Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine founder Neal
Barnard; and occupational health expert
Jessica Sandler, who spoke for the Doris Day
Animal League, PETA, and seven other animal
protection organizations.
Sanders for EPA “Where acute toxicity or other
screening data are already publicly available,”
Sanders stated, “EPA will not require duplicative
testing. EPA is committed to examining
alternative test methods that reduce the number
of animals for testing, reduce pain and
suffering of test animals, and replace animals
in testing with in vitro (non-animal) tests.
“I want to stress that EPA’s attention
to animal welfare issues predates the creation
in 1998 of the HPV Challenge Program,”
Sanders continued. “EPA has been committed
to reducing animal testing and refining test
methods for the past decade. A primary example
is EPA’s support of the use of the combined
protocol, which provides information on
repeat dose, developmental, and reproductive
toxicity. If separate repeat dose toxicity,
reproductive toxicity, and developmental toxicity
studies were conducted, 360 animals
would be used for each chemical tested. By
contrast,” Sanders explained, “the combined
protocol calls for the use of 80 animals, a
reduction in animal usage of up to 80%.”
Instead of the LD-50 test, Sanders
said, “EPA recommends use of the Up-andDown
Procedure, a method which can evaluate
acute toxicity using about eight animals per
test, as an alternative to the LD-50, which [in
current format] requires 20 animals. I am very
pleased to announce that just last week,”
Sanders added, “I headed a delegation to the
Joint Meeting of the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development,
which accepted a proposal which may lead to
the deletion of the LD-50 protocol from the
OECD Screening Information Data Set, possibly
as early as the end of the year 2000.
“In the area of genetic toxicity,”
Sanders added, “EPA has decided to drop its
preference for the in vivo micronucleus test
and to accept either in vivo or in vitro [ n o n –
animal] studies. Companies which elect to use
the in vitro protocol would not use any animals,
as compared to about 50 animals needed
under the in vivo protocol.
“EPA also believes,” Sanders testified,
“that the first years of the HPV
Challenge may provide an opportunity for
non-animal studies to be validated by performing
them in parallel with traditional testing.”
Barnard for PCRM
Barnard, however, challenged the
whole rationale for the HPV Challenge.
“In December 1998,” Barnard said,
“we examined the test data already available
on a sample of chemicals from the EPA’s HPV
Challenge program chemical list. EPA’s list
summarizes available toxicity information
based on the Registry of Toxic Effects of
Chemical Substances, the H a z a r d o u s
Substances Data Bank, TOXLINE, and
MEDLINE. The EPA’s list suggests that gaps
in knowledge are often found, gaps which
were also described in the Environmental
Defense Fund’s summary report, T o x i c
Ignorance. We found that the EPA, in its hurried
review, simply did not check the right
data bases. In our evaluation, we added the
Toxicology, Occupational Medicine and
Environmental Series Consolidated Point
S o l u t i o n. We found that data thought by the
EPA to be lacking were indeed available. In
addition, human data are often available.
Toxic exposures have been elaborately studied
in exposed workers, in cases of accidental and
deliberate overdoses, and in other settings,
but these data have been and will be completely
ignored in the HPV program.
“The EPA now acknowledges that
its review was flawed and that more data are
available than initially believed, but despite
our bringing this problem to the Agency’s
attention six months ago,” Barnard objected,
“it has shown no interest in modifying its
headlong rush into testing.”
DDAL, PETA
Sandler, like Calvert, pointed
directly toward Gore.
“With reference to Vice President
Gore’s fast tracking of the ‘right-to-know’
testing plans,” Sandler testified, “the
American Industrial Health Council writes that
‘The speed with which the EPA has been
asked to propose and finalize the rule [is] a
reflection of a non-scientific political agenda.’
The European Center for the Validation of
Alternative Methods, funded by the European
Union, states with regard to the HPV program:
‘Traditional toxicologists with a vested
interest in checklist animal testing, and contract
testing laboratories with a commercial
interest in gaining new business, must be
rejoicing. This is bad news for those of us
who seek a scientifically rational approach to
hazard prediction and risk assessment.’
“The EPA has conceded some of the
issues we have raised,” Sandler continued.
“For example, when we looked at the list of
chemicals to be tested, it was immediately
apparent that the EPA and the Environmental
Defense Fund’s claim that there is a ‘virtual
vacuum of information’ on these chemicals
was unfounded. The original EPA publications
on the HPV program stated that their
report on the lack of data available on HPV
chemicals was a definitive study. EPA officials
now admit that it was, in fact, ‘a quick
and dirty look in order to get the message out.’
That type of advocacy is not what we expect
from a federal regulatory agency.”
Sandler also slammed “the extent to
which the EPA has ceded authority in this matter
to a non-governmental organization. I have
been present at EPA workshops,” she stated,
“in which EPA representatives deferred to
EDF officials in answering questions posed by
company officials. For example, when one
company representative queried the EPA
regarding the grouping of chemicals to reduce
testing, the EDF representative responded that
such categorization would be severely frowned
upon. The Council on Environmental Quality
has told us that the response to eight issues of
concern we presented to Vice President Gore
and the EPA is awaiting EDF input. Never, in
all my years of involvement with the federal
government, have I seen such an odd dynamic,”
Sandler charged. “It has not well served
the public interest.”
The EDF has a fast line to Gore via
Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who
in 1995 married EDF board member Teresa
Platt Heinz. Heinz, heir to the Heinz food fortune,
was previously married to Senator John
Heinz (R-Pennsylvania), who was killed in a
1991 airplane crash.

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