23 January 2010

French Stop Testing Oysters on Mice

Oyster photo by Alain Feulvarch
Yes, you read that right. I heard this first on the radio, but there are better text versions here in English and here en français.

The gist is that since oysters are filter-feeders in the big wide ocean, and not raised in a closed system of a farm, and they can pick up pathogens pretty easy. So there are naturally food-safety concerns (ignoring the heavy metals and toxins). So many governments started testing digestive fluid from the oysters by injecting it into mice and seeing if they died (the mouse bioassay, or test de la souris). Very base test. Fast forward a few decades, and most governments find faster, cheaper, more reliable, less cruel ways to test the pathogenicity of oysters. Yet up until recently, France was shelling out money (yuk-yuk) for the old muricidal method. Finally, they have switched to the better-in-almost-every-way chemical test.

Why did this happen? Seems many French oyster farmers were upset that mice oftentimes die even if the oysters were 'clean.' This would mean whole regions of coast would be banned from selling oysters, and many people went bankrupt and so forth. So the oysterfolk complained, and eventually got the change they wanted. I can find no indication that any animal-rights groups were involved (they dropped the ball)

Now I am glad that more mice are living, but upset that perhaps more oysters will die. I am more glad that another unreliable animal test has been ditched in favor of a more reliable cruelty-free test. Though I can not find out precisely which test they are using now, it is a good point to bring up when people tell you that animal testing is 'needed.'

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