Toxicity Testing Update: Bill S-5 Passes Committee Stage

An exciting new federal bill that could help end toxicity tests on animals has passed through the House of Commons Environment Committee, retaining many important amendments made by the Senate and strengthening others.

Bill S-5, the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, lays out the roadmap for Canada to phase out cruel toxicity tests on animals, and become a leader in the development and use of alternative test methods. Toxicity tests are some of the cruelest forms of animal experimentation, and cause immense suffering to tens of thousands of animals every year in Canada.

Bill S-5 would require government to support and start using cruelty-free alternatives to animal testing, empower the government to make regulations about how non-animal testing should be done, and publish a plan within the next two years to promote animal-free testing methods.

As the bill moves through the steps to become law, Animal Justice lawyers are working to further strengthen the bill to protect even more animals from cruel tests.

The bill has now passed its review by the standing committee and has moved to the report stage. While many improvements have been made, the Bill remains far from perfect. For instance, it only protects vertebrate animals, leaving octopuses and other invertebrates at risk from animal experiments. But there have been several big wins:

  • It creates a clear ability for rules to protect animals from harmful toxicity testing.
  • The bill requires government to adopt scientifically justified alternatives to animal testing. Following Animal Justice’s suggestion, the committee replaced vague language that would have left significant loopholes in this requirement, instead aligning it with stronger language similar to toxics laws in the United States.
  • The bill now includes a strong definition of “refine”, to make it clear that when animals continue to be used in toxicity testing, “refining” their use must result in real-life improvements that will reduce their suffering
  • The bill also keeps the requirement that government develop a plan for reducing and replacing animals in toxicity testing, including a mandatory report to Parliament each year on progress on the plan—something we think is key to ensuring Canada stays on track for the goal to eliminate unnecessary testing on animals by 2035
  • The bill now also includes the requirement for mandatory public consultation when new genetically modified vertebrate animals are proposed
Image shows rabbits in lab.

Ending Toxicity Testing Cruelty in Canada

Toxicity tests on animals are done for product safety and other reasons. These tests cause severe pain, extreme distress, and often death. Animals are often burned or wounded without pain relief, forced to eat deadly substances, or have harmful chemicals spread on their skin. Canada has been falling far behind other developed nations when it comes to protecting sensitive animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and mice from the horrific cruelty they endure every day in laboratories. Bill S-5 represents a massive opportunity to catch-up.

Animal Justice has been active in leading a coalition of organizations supporting MPs through the legislative process to make the bill as strong as possible. This has not been an easy task, but Animal Justice lawyers are working tirelessly to pave the path for a cruelty-free future. We can only continue this mission with your support. Donate now and make a difference for animals in Canada.