Irish campaigners in EU push to stop Botox tests

Irish campaigners in EU push to stop Botox tests

New report shows Ireland worst EU culprit per capita for horrific tests

PRESS RELEASE - 18th April 2023

165,000-strong petition presented to the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam

Every year across the EU, hundreds of thousands of mice are still being poisoned to test botulinum toxin products - better known by one of its trade names ‘Botox’ - even though non-animal methods have existed for 12 years with technological details in the public domain. The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), including the Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS), is calling for the abolition of the deadly mouse test (LD50) from European toxicity testing rules. On 20 April 2023, the umbrella organization is handing over around 165,000 signatures collected across Europe to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Ireland is in the epicentre of this controversy as the country is in the embarrassing position of being the ‘Cruelty Capital of Europe’, with a new EU report revealing an estimated per capita death rate for botox testing over six times greater than the next country: [1] 

1. Ireland: 20,137 animals poisoned and killed per million population
2. Belgium: 3,193
3. France: 1,809
4. Spain: 1,436
5. Italy: 982

How is Botox tested?
Botulinum toxin is one of the most powerful biological toxins known to humanity, which blocks transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. Some botox producers are still being given permission to test their batches of botox by injecting it into the abdomens of the mice. Commercial confidentiality rules are allowing companies who have developed non-animal tests to withhold the technology from other botox manufacturers.

Groups of mice are injected with the substance in various dilutions into the abdominal cavity to determine the dose at which half of the animals would die. Those in the highest strength group start showing signs of poisoning within hours, with paralysis of the lower body, leading them to stagger or be unable to walk. After about a day, the paralysis starts to affect the respiration muscles and the mice will gasp for air, start to literally go blue, and die of asphyxiation. However, to make matters worse, some of the animals’ paralysis prevents them from reaching food and water, so they die of dehydration or starvation.

The tests are officially classed as ‘severe’, which is the highest category of suffering. Furthermore, these tests – known as Lethal Dose 50% (LD50) - are at the very worst end of the severe category because they allow many of the animals to continue to suffer until they die (known as ‘death as the endpoint’). The mice are not given any pain relief because that is deemed to potentially interfere with the results. The psychological and physical pain these animals endure is almost beyond comprehension.

The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) has been running a Europe-wide campaign against the cruel tests since 2009 and has had some success when the biggest manufacturers switched mostly to animal-free testing. The umbrella organisation is calling for the LD50 test to be officially abolished.

On 20 April 2023, a delegation from the Coalition, including Ireland, is meeting with representatives from the EMA in Amsterdam to hand over the petition with approximately 165,000 signatures calling on the agency to exert its influence to get the LD50 botox test on mice removed from the regulatory framework.

Jenn Scannell, IAVS spokesperson commented:

"This is a horrific scandal on a number of levels: firstly, just the sheer scale and intensity of the cruelty; secondly, the fact that cruelty-free alternative tests exist but corporate red tape and government indifference prevents them being used universally; and, thirdly, much of this botox is destined for cosmetic uses but is still tested on animals despite the supposed EU ban on cosmetic animal testing.

The citizens of Europe and Ireland are deeply opposed to poisoning animals to death for trivial purposes, yet our regulators seem indifferent. It’s time they pulled their finger out and did the decent thing and end this horrific cruelty once and for all.


[1] Figures from 2020 annual EU members’ statistics for category ‘Batch potency tests’.