New Bill Could Phase Out Toxicity Tests on Animals in Canada

Canada’s federal government has introduced an exciting new bill that could end some of the worst and most painful forms of animal experimentation.

Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act is currently working its way through the Senate. This long-overdue government bill would revamp the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”), one of the most important environmental laws in the country which regulates toxic substances to protect people, animals, and the planet.

The bill recognizes the need to reduce and replace the use of animals in toxicity testing—one of the most suffering-intensive categories of animal research. But if the Liberal government plans to follow through on its election campaign promise to phase out all toxicity testing on animals by 2035, the bill needs improvements. There must be strong legal requirements to eliminate unnecessary testing on animals by 2035 at the latest, and to promote the development and use of non-animal testing methods.

That’s where Animal Justice comes in.

We’re working with a coalition of groups to strengthen Bill S-5 and ensure it results in meaningful progress for animals, while also strengthening its protections for the environment and human health.

Many toxicity tests fall into “Category E”—the most severe category of harm that animals can experience, according to the Canadian Council on Animal Care. In 2019, approximately 90,000 animals experienced Category E toxicity tests that cause death, severe pain, and extreme distress. These tests can involve procedures such as inflicting burns or trauma on unanesthetized animals, and forced ingestion or topical application of deadly substances.

We are optimistic that many of our suggested amendments will be incorporated into Bill S-5, and that it will mark a turning point for animals used in research. Just last week, Senator Pierre Dalphond asked Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault if he was open to strengthening the Act amendments to better protect animals from cruel toxicity testing—and the Minister said yes! This is good news.

Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the industrialized world. There is virtually no government oversight or no federal regulations to protect animals in laboratories.

In 2017, a shocking undercover exposé released by Last Chance for Animals revealed horrific abuse of monkeys, dogs, and pigs during toxicity tests at a research laboratory in Montreal. Yet no one was ever charged for this cruelty, and there have been no legal improvements that would better protect animals suffering behind closed doors in labs.

Animal Justice and other groups have been pushing for years for Canada to end the use of animals in cosmetics and toxicity testing. Our lawyers will keep working to improve Bill S-5, and we’ll keep pushing for stronger laws to protect animals used in research and put Canada on the path to a cruelty-free future.