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Lab Animals, Europe Decides

Between January and May the European Parliament considered new rules for lab animals proposed by the European Commission. As the rules passed through Committees right up to the vote in Plenary, we were there to inform and try to shape animal protection.

(Pictured: David Martin MEP, Tim Phillips ADI Campaigns Director, Jens Holm MEP, Jan Creamer ADI Chief Executive, Carl Schlyter MEP address the European Parliament at the launch of the Save the Primates investigation.)

New Directive on Animal Experiments
In November 2008, the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal for a new Directive on animal testing, replacing Directive 86/609/EEC. This instigated the latest phase of our huge campaign in the European Parliament to obtain the best possible deal for all lab animals in the EU.

We cautiously welcomed the Commission’s text as an important step forward towards harmonisation to raise standards in Europe – a huge improvement over Directive 86/609/EEC.

It included a requirement for prior authorisation for all animal experiments; the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement) as a cornerstone of the legislation with particular emphasis on replacement; ethical reviews; a licensing system for suppliers, establishments and individuals using animals; an upper limit of pain; uniform implementation of Council of Europe standards of housing; the extension of the scope of the Directive to some invertebrate species and foetal animals, and other measures.

Although many of these proposals are to some extent already in place in the UK, it is important to bear in mind that due to great disparities in legislation between Member States, these measures would drastically improve the lives of millions of animals elsewhere in Europe, and provide incentive to reduce their use. This is an opportunity to also improve the UK legislation, and drag Europe into the 21st century. At times, the Commission went further than simple harmonisation by proposing innovative measures, such as limiting the use of primates to studies of life-threatening and debilitating diseases, a phase-out on the use of all wild-caught primates in testing and breeding, and the creation of national reference laboratories for alternative methods.

However, there were also shortcomings. Notably, bans on the use of great apes and endangered species contained loopholes and exemptions. ECVAM (European Centre for the Validation of Alternatives Methods), an institution key to the dissemination of alternatives in Europe, was not mentioned. Little was done for improvement of animal housing and care. Provisions on data sharing fell short of what was already established by the REACH Directive.
Thus, although we were pleased that the Commission’s proposals contained much that was cited in our manifesto of early 2008, and indeed from our campaign since 2002, (e.g. the 2007 primate declaration), there was room for improvement.

In January 2009, we published ‘Vision for Europe’ (in six languages), summarising key demands, including:

  • closure of the loopholes on primates; tougher measures to review and phase out the use of all primates in experiments, in line with our Written Declaration 40 adopted by the European Parliament in 2007;
  • an end to animal testing in higher education, for household products, forensic enquiries and the preservation of species;
  • greater transparency;
  • incentives to put replacement of animal tests with advanced techniques at the heart of the Directive;
  • a European centre networking the development of alternatives or to expand the role of ECVAM and the proposed National Reference Laboratories;
  • regular thematic review of animal experimentation.

In December, we had presented the Home Office with a proposal for a formal bi-annual thematic review process to allow legislation to keep up with technology. Importantly, we wanted a formal mechanism to target specific animal experiments to ensure steady progression towards elimination of animal use. In the coming months our proposal would gain considerable momentum. Read more ...

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