Soft drinks – animal testing; come again? Earlier this year, Coca-Cola (Coke, Minute Maid, Fruitopia) and Pepsico (Pepsi, Tropicana, Gatorage) made decisions that their value chains will no longer include animal testing. Each agreed to stop directly financing research that uses animals to test or develop their products, except where such testing is required by law. Elaine Palmer, a spokeswoman for Pepsico, said that while the company had never supported the idea of animal testing, ‚ÄòWe had not been policing it, so that part is new.‘” Danny Strickland, Coke’s chief innovation and technology officer said “senior management had not previously been aware of the (animal) studies.”
So who is watching the animals in the value chain?
Many companies have Sustainability officers, in charge of “greening” initiatives. Companies have Human Resources VPs in charge of labor issues and diversity initiatives, and Community Relations directors in charge of philanthropic efforts. Logistics and Quality are the departments minding the ethics of the supply chain. Who is looking out for the welfare of animals in the value chain? Let’s step back. Have firms taken the first step to identify the use of animals in the value chain?
In January of this year, Pom pomegranate juice agreed to cease tests on animals after PETA disclosed a 2005 study financed by the company that tested the juice to see if it might relieve artificially induced erectile dysfunction in rabbits. Whole Foods stepped in to say that they would no longer carry the POM product line if the animal tests did not stop.
A study involving a Coca-Cola scientist, financed by Nutrasweet, cut open the faces of chimpanzees to study nerve impulses used in the perception of sweet tastes.
Dr. Alan Goldberg, director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University states, “I have never found chimpanzee work justifiable…they are a species that’s incredibly close to human capacity, and we just have to recognize that. If it shouldn’t be done in humans it shouldn’t be done in chimps.” Dr. Goldberg says that in the last 30 years, there have been many advances in non-animal models that are typically more scientifically precise. “In vitro models are cleaner (and) the bottom line is that I’d love to see animal studies disappear entirely,” he said.
NEAVS, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society agrees. NEAVS Project Release & Restitution is calling for release of chimpanzees from biomedical labs and placement into sanctuaries. NEAVS says that “chimpanzee research has been shown time and again to be unnecessary and even dangerous to human medical advances. The scientific community itself is in debate about the efficacy of chimpanzee research to study human health and disease. Although chimpanzees have 96% of the same DNA as us, we now know that they – like all other species experimented on – differ significantly from humans. These differences can result in crucial disparities in the way viruses progress in chimpanzees and humans, and in how we respond to drugs and treatments.”
England, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria and Japan have banned or limited biomedical research on great apes. The United States remains the largest user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the world, although, recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced they will stop breeding government-owned chimpanzees for research, a move that has been lauded as a monumental decision by animal protection groups. Earlier, in 2000, the U.S. Chimp Act was passed, requiring the U.S.government to take partial responsibility for costs of lifetime care for a former chimps in research outside the laboratory It also prohibits routine euthanasia simply because the animal is no longer of use.
With improved accountability and value chain transparency that is inherent in corporate citizenship, the mission to proactively “reduce – refine – replace” should become as common as the drive to become “carbon neutral” and engage in “fair trade.” Technology has improved tremendously in the last 30-50 years. In the animals’ case, ignorance of their use and conditions is not bliss.
With an MBA in Sustainable Management, Janice Neitzel is a principal of Sustainable Solutions Group. She is a certified facilitator developing sustainability strategies for innovative value chain solutions with particular insight into improving animal-related business practices (www.JaniceNeitzel.com)