Canada takes two steps to reduce reliance on animal testing


Canada takes two steps to reduce reliance on animal testing

7 July 2023
Bill S-5 received Royal Assent to become law on 13 June. It is the first major update to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) since 1999, and includes several amendments aimed at reducing and replacing the use of vertebrate animals in toxicity testing. Nine days later, the Canadian government passed Bill C-47 to amend the Foods and Drugs Act to end cosmetic animal testing and trade.

The primary goal of the CEPA is to contribute to sustainable development by preventing pollution. It provides legislation to address a wide range of pollution sources, including chemical substances. After more than 20 years, the CEPA has finally been amended in response to the evolution of science and exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants in today’s society.

With Bill S-5, known as the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, the Government of Canada formally recognises “the importance of promoting the development and timely incorporation of scientifically justified alternative methods and strategies in the testing and assessment of substances to replace, reduce or refine the use of vertebrate animals”. To this end, it calls on Environment and Health Ministers to make use of such methods and strategies, where practicable, when assessing whether a substance is toxic or has the potential to become toxic. It also requires Ministers to publish, within two years, a timetabled plan setting out activities or initiatives to promote the development and implementation of such methods and strategies. This plan will be updated and reported on annually.

In addition, the Canadian government has also passed measures to amend the Foods and Drugs Act through Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act. In addition to banning the testing of cosmetics on animals and the sale of cosmetics that rely on new animal testing data, the amendments also prohibit the use of false or misleading labelling regarding the testing of cosmetics on animals.

With these new laws, Canada joins more than 40 countries that have already banned animal testing for cosmetics, including the EU. It also follows in the footsteps of the United Sates, which earlier this year passed a new law authorising the use of modern, human-relevant approaches for regulatory purposes instead of standard animal testing.

The new North American policies are important steps towards the full replacement of animal testing. As a major player in this transition, the EU can still become a world leader in animal-free innovation by coordinating a plan with concrete milestones to transition to non-animal science.