Time to Stop Relying on the Draize Test

This test is done despite significant structural and physiological differences between rabbit and human eyes.
April 10, 2015

There is currently* a requirement in NZ law for the use of a cruel and archaic animal test called the Draize Test. This test is used to try and assess if a substance will cause eye or skin irritancy in humans by measuring the effects on animals, normally albino rabbits.

Regulations relating to hazardous substances require* this test.1 Hazardous substances include anything from cleaning products, agricultural compounds, solvents, and water treatment chemicals to tattoo inks, fuel additives and fertilisers. This outdated requirement means that rabbits are subject to tests where these types of substances are forced into their eyes or applied to their skin.

But humans are not giant bunnies…

Requiring this test ignores significant differences between rabbit and human eyes:

  • Rabbits have a third eyelid (like cats).2
  • The cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) is 25% of a rabbit's eye surface area.2 The human cornea is under 10% of the eye surface.3
  • The cornea of a rabbit is much thinner than a human’s.4
  • Rabbits produce tears less effectively than humans, retain chemicals longer, and have a higher pH value of the eye.5

Importantly, the flaws have been noted in the scientific literature:

  • Three separate studies comparing human and rabbit reactions “showed that the Draize test has essentially no power to predict the results of accidental human eye exposure” already in the 1980s.6
  • The test relies entirely on the researcher's subjective assessment of the caused damage. This limits reproducibility, as admitted by the inventors themselves.7
  • Additional studies have shown that results are very variable, even between individuals of the same breed.8

There are better methods!

The Draize Test has never been scientifically validated9. Whereas animal-free tests have been validated and are much more accurate.

Animal-free methods have shown success rates of 76% (EpiDerm) and 70% (EPISKIN), whereas the success rate of the Draize Test is much lower at 56% (very close to the odds of flipping a coin!).11

There are animal-free methods readily available, validated by the OECD12 and approved for use by New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority13 (EPA). The U.S. EPA already has a guidance document outlining the different non-animal methods.14

We need to remove this outdated requirement in NZ law so that our beautiful country stops contributing to the use of the cruel and archaic Draize Test!

*Update: these regulations have been revoked in 2017.

Note: We did have a petition for this campaign. It is now closed as the campaign was successful. Now, there are even more animal-free methods outperforming archaic animal experimentation.15

With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.