Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Saturday January 4, 2003
Sir Paul McCartney has protested to WWF, the wildlife organisation, about its active support for chemical tests that cause the death of thousands of animals.
The row is over the testing of chemicals in everyday use which are accumulating in human body fat and suspected of being endocrine disrupters, which mimic human and animal hormones causing sex changes, deformities and possibly cancer.
Sir Paul claims the programme is "needlessly torturing and killing millions of animals" and says the organisation has strayed off course. But WWF believes that the chemicals must be tested to ensure they are not harmful, "otherwise we are all part of a dangerous global experiment, the result of which we do not know".
Writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Sir Paul says: "I was appalled to learn from Peta that the US office of the WWF has been a driving force behind the design and development of one of the largest animal testing programmes in international history."
In a letter to Claude Martin, director general of WWF, he says the organisation "has been involved in pressurising the US Congress to require the testing of chemicals for hormone disrupting effects". He says that WWF supports a neurotoxity test "that causes the suffering and deaths of more than 1,300 animals per chemical tested".
WWF in the UK concedes that animal testing "is a difficult issue". It said large numbers of chemicals had been released which had not been tested, and the only way of getting some of them banned was to have them tested. "If there is an alternative we would support it," a spokesperson said.
There is increasing sconcern about manmade chemicals in everyday use, some of which are used to line food cans. Work by the UK environment agency has shown that fish in rivers below sewage works turn female as a result of chemicals in the water.
But chemical companies refuse to withdraw products already on the market unless there is proof that they are causing damage. WWF argues that the only way of checking this is to carry out tests.
In a statement in reply to the McCartney letter WWF said: "Despite utterly inadequate safety assessments, tens of thousands of chemicals are being released into the environment. This results in the exposure of humans and wildlife to unknown risks.Of the 2,600 chemicals used in the highest volumes in the EU, 21% have no safety data."
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