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Nissui's omega-3 research is rodent-free thanks to PETA

Company commits to stopping the use of mice and rats in its studies of omega-3 impacts on human health.

Japanese seafood giant Nippon Suisan Kaisha (Nissui) has made a commitment to back away from animal testing under pressure from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The animal advocacy group said Nissui's research on omega-3s using mice and rats as test subjects were inhumane, and urged the company late last year to change its policy.

Among the research PETA objected to were multiple studies aimed at understanding the efficacy of omega-3s on supporting human health and brain development.

PETA argued that those tests -- which included inducing aneurysms in mice and force feeding mice them omega-3s oils -- were unnecessary to determining the potential beneficial effects in humans.

Nissui committed to ending the use of any animals in its research earlier this year, and officially announced its policy publicly last month. The company said it would only use animal testing of its products if required by law.

PETA Vice President of International Laboratory Methods Shalin Gala told IntraFish research on rodents and other mammals to determine human health impacts is increasingly viewed as providing less-than-accurate results.

"It's not giving the best science, much less treating the animals well," he said.

Contrary to its activist image, the group tries to work collaboratively with companies directly to influence their policies, as they did with Nissui, Gala said.

Shareholder activism, public shaming and direct action tend to be activities PETA takes where the see egregious issues that are failing to be addressed.

Gala hopes Nissui's commitment will likely spur other companies in the supplements sphere to make similar commitments.

"Once a major company makes a decision, it tends to be followed by peer companies," Gala said.

Most recently in Japan, the company was able to get commitment to end animal testing from nearly 95 percent of the country's alcohol makers following a commitment from Asahi, Suntory and Kirin.

"All it takes is one company like Nissui to be brave enough to set a precedent," Gala said.

PETA has no particular plans to target other seafood companies, but said it is looking at other companies in the space to determine if similar practices are being used.

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