Recently, animal activists officially declared New Zealand to now be “cruelty-free.”

This is quite a sweeping declaration, and as such, deserves a closer look.

If you read the fine print, what you learn is New Zealand will no longer allow any safety testing involving lab animals for cosmetics products in New Zealand. Tests done in other countries, on the other hand, are fine. And, by the way, cosmetic testing with animals was never conducted in New Zealand prior to this announcement, either, so I’m not sure why now they are suddenly ‘cruelty-free’.

Thus, the claim of an entire country being cruelty-free rings a bit hollow. And the nuance of cosmetics testing is a longer story for another post.

But it does raise a very important issue: Be wary of claims that seem to be too good to be true.

If I had a dollar for every time I read a story that some breakthrough meant the end of animal research, I’d be very rich. Breathless headlines announcing the end of animal research might raise dollars, sell papers, and make people feel good, but they are generally either wholly inaccurate or half-truths. It’s possible, and even probable, that a new technique or method might replace a specific test, but there are still many lines of inquiry into disease mechanisms, safety and efficacy for which animal replacements are many years away.

Therefore, pronouncements like that about New Zealand are just more examples of how animal rights groups claim victory without telling the whole story to people who, like me, look forward to the day when animal research is not needed to insure diseases are conquered, medicines are safe and effective and products we use every day are safe for our families and ourselves.

So next time you see a story in the paper, or on the Internet, about some claim that seems just too good to be true, remember, it probably is.

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