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Governor Vetoes Bill to Ban Rabbit Skin Tests

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Expressing concern about outlawing “a viable testing option” to ensure consumer safety, Gov. George Deukmejian has vetoed a bill that would have made California the first state to ban eye and skin tests on rabbits in the development of cosmetics and household products.

The measure, which had wide support from humane societies and other animal rights advocates, would have been a boost to Ropak Laboratories, an Irvine-based firm that has developed a test tube alternative to the traditional Draize test, which relies on rabbits.

Donna Pane, legislative assistant to Assemblyman Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria), author of the bill, said it would be futile to try to persuade Republicans in the Legislature to override the governor’s veto.

She said, however, that the bill had bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate, and that O’Connell will come back with a similar legislative proposal after a new governor takes office next year.

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Pane said she believes Deukmejian didn’t thoroughly understand the issue and listened only to the position of manufacturers who contended that animal testing continues to be necessary. She complained that he bought “industry’s line--hook, line and sinker.”

Ropak remained neutral in the political battle over the proposed legislation, in part because its customers are manufacturers of cosmetics and household products, some of which have completely converted to non-animal testing but nonetheless oppose an all-out ban on Draize.

Ropak Vice President Virginia Gordon, who was responsible for developing Ropak’s testing process, said she personally opposes forcing manufacturers to abandon animal testing. She said she would prefer legislation that instead would offer manufacturers financial and other incentives to switch to non-animal testing alternatives.

Gordon said, however, that “just having the bill get where it did” created a new awareness in the scientific and manufacturing communities of the strides that have been made in developing non-animal tests.

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