Procter & Gamble cuts animal tests

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ANIMAL RIGHTS campaigners have scored a big victory in the United States, with the decision by one of the world's largest consumer products companies to all but end animal testing.

Procter & Gamble, which makes everything from toothpaste to disposable nappies, announced on Tuesday that it would stop testing for about 80 per cent of its products. The decision follows a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) against the company. The group held a ceremony to dump its campaign material in a dustbin to mark the occasion.

"History is made in small steps and today, P&G has taken one of them," said Mary Beth Sweetland, Peta's director. Peta launched an undercover campaign to investigate a laboratory that conducted tests for the company, and it used a mockup of a logo for Tide, the washing powder, superimposing on it: "Thousands of animals died for your laundry."

The financial impact on the company will be slim, analysts said. But the decision will remove a negative public relations factor and win the company some plaudits, though the animal rights campaigners will want to see results. "It is a small hop forward, but P&G deserves a slap on the back.

"But we are not taking our hooks out until we get all animals out of testing,'' said Ms Sweetland.

Robert Hart, president of the American Humane Association, said: "This is a good day for laboratory animals in America. For years, the American Humane Association has acknowledged the important work and investment P&G has put into developing alternatives to animal testing. We are extremely heartened by today's announcement."

Spurred on by protests, scientists have been developing alternatives to animal testing, and a breakthrough was announced this week. A panel of scientists endorsed a new test for products used on the skin that would end much of the most painful experimentation.

"Current regulations usually require three animals for each chemical evaluated for skin corrosivity and dermal irritation," said William Stokes of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Since there are more than 2,000 chemicals introduced each year, this could result in a considerable reduction in the use of laboratory animals to identify corrosives."

The new test uses a layer of collagen. If it proves positive, then there is no need to use animals. Another new test allows a reduction in the number of mice used to test for dermatitis.