ICCVAM authorized two different methods, the bovine corneal opacity and permeability (BCOP) assay and the isolated chicken eye (ICE) assay. These don’t use live animals. I’m not exactly sure you could say that this wasn’t tested in an animal, but close enough. Or at least that’s what the director says. It really don’t count as a reduction, but it certainly counts as refinement. As I’m always going on about, this is really a boon for drug and pesticide development and does nothing for risk assessment. Even in the press release (link above), it notes (thankfully):
If a positive response is obtained using either of the two new approved alternative methods, the product can be labeled as causing irreversible or severe eye damage and no live animal testing will be required. If the response is negative, the product is then tested in an animal to confirm that it does not cause severe or irreversible damage.
I predict based on my experience with such groups (and previous statements) that the animal rights crowd won’t get very excited about this. It’s only a positive screen and it’s still using animals, just not whole. But if their goal is the better welfare of animals in research, they should be excited. The animal isn’t around to feel the pain, in fact, the eyes likely come from animals that are being slaughtered for another reason so that’s kinda a reduction. If it’s negative, you still have to go into a live animal but theoretically you’ve already weeded out the big problems. So here’s my plea to the animal rights folks: get excited about the steps we can make because no one is going to stop killing animals for a long time.
PS A good animal rights related read here.