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New EU Animal Experiments rules: MEPs disappointed

UK Government urged to commit to replacing animal experiments during implementation

The UK Government is being called on to take a progressive approach when implementing the new Directive on animal experiments passed by the European Parliament. MEPs and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research (LDF) have described the new rules as a disappointing compromise. The second reading of the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes (repeal. Directive 86/609/EEC) took place yesterday after being under discussion for several years.

It had been hoped that the new Directive, the first revision in 25 years, would signal a serious drive for the implementation of modern, humane, replacement techniques for animal experiments, but several promising measures from the European Commission and MEPs were steadily diluted during the negotiations, as a result of heavy lobbying from industry and animal suppliers.

The new rules have also raised concerns that they will prevent member states like the UK from imposing stricter regulation – if so this would be the most serious restriction ever placed on member state’s unilateral animal protection measures by the European Union.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of the National Anti-Vivisection Society said: “The public will share our disappointment that such an important opportunity to advance the replacement of animals in experiments has been missed.

“We had hoped for clear mechanisms to ensure that replacements for animal experiments were rapidly implemented but many of the drivers to ensure this happened that were in the original proposals have been stripped away during discussions in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. We are left with a sense that this is business as usual for the animal laboratories,” Tim said.

Brian Simpson MEP, Labour’s spokesperson in the European Parliament on animal rights, expressed dismay at limitations that may be placed on member states like the UK: “I am concerned that restrictions on member states adopting higher welfare standards imply a race to the bottom rather than a push to the top when it comes to animal welfare protection.
“The UK has always prided itself on striving for higher animal welfare standards and my concern is that the new text may severely limit the UK’s ability to push for higher standards in the future.“

David Martin MEP, Scotland’s senior European MP and Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Animal Welfare said: “Today’s vote in Strasbourg on ‘new’ rules with regard to scientific experiments on animals is a huge disappointment to me and the vast majority of my constituents.

“It is a lost opportunity. What we must move towards are clear restrictions on the use of non-human primates, a ban on the use of wild-caught animals, an unequivocal obligation to use non-animal alternative methods when scientifically available, and a ban on experiments which involve severe and prolonged suffering – today’s ruling fell woefully below this.”

Catalan Green MEP and Vicechair of Greens/EFA Group, Raül Romeva i Rueda said: ” While it is true that the revised legislation will introduce some improvements to current EU rules on animal testing, it simply does not go far enough and, in some cases, weakens the current laws.

“That is why some of us wanted to send the text back to Committee in order to solve those loopholes. Crucially, the new laws will fail to ensure that alternatives to animal testing are used whenever possible. This will mean animals will suffer needlessly in scientific tests even though alternatives exist.

“Worryingly, the new laws would also prevent member states from adopting more ambitious rules on animal testing at national level. I specially regret that stricter rules on the use of non-human primates were not adopted.“

The next step will be that the Directive will be transposed into national law in each member state, and Tim Phillips of the NAVS concluded by saying: “It is now up to the UK Government to take a stand when the new Directive is implemented here and the NAVS, together with partner groups Animal Defenders International and the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research, will be pressing for a strong commitment from the UK Government on effective implementation of replacements for animal experiments and restrictions on areas of animal use”.

The NAVS, ADI and LDF team will be meeting Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone calling for a strong UK stand. The Minister recently announced the Government were preparing to end the testing of household products.

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