Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

EU tightens up animal testing rules

  • Scientific and medical tests on gorillas will be formally banned from 2012 (Photo: Wikipedia/Kabir Bakie)

MEPs agreed on Wednesday (8 September) to overhaul 20-year-old EU rules on the protection of animals used in scientific or medical experiments, significantly limiting the number of animals used in this way and the kind of experiments that can be performed.

Under the legislation, the use of animals in scientific experiments will continue to be allowed for a range of scientific reasons as well as for drug testing, species preservation and forensic investigations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

However, all EU countries must now make sure that whenever a form of testing exists that does not use animals and is recognised by European law, this method be used instead. In addition, approval should be granted only to tests that use killing methods which cause the least pain or distress, while still providing scientifically satisfactory results.

An ethical and scientific review will have to be done before an experiment is authorised. Anyone carrying out animal tests will also be obliged to have adequate training and apply for a licence.

The new law also formally bans the use of great apes - chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans - although they have not been used in EU laboratories for some time. An original proposal would have seen a ban on other primate testing, notably of marmosets and macaques, but eurodeputies worried that scientific research into neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's would be hindered if the bill were extended to these animals.

The bill, which follows an agreement between the legislature and the member states, sets out a hierarchy of pain - "mild", "moderate", "severe", and "non-recovery" - that may be inflicted during a test.

MEPs also wanted to limit repeated exposure of the same animal to testing, but worried that limits that were too strict would actually result in more animals being tested. As a result animals can be re-used in tests that entail pain classified as "up to moderate," one level higher than had originally been proposed.

National governments will be responsible for carrying out controls in at least 33 percent of laboratories that use animals, some of which should be unannounced. The European Commission will review the rules every five years.

"The new rules are a breakthrough for the protection of animals while striking a sensible balance to keep medical research in Europe and preventing research projects being moved to non-EU countries with lower standards for animal rights," said Elisabeth Jeggle, the MEP who shepherded the bill through the chamber.

Although the compromise with member states improves the current situation, animal rights activists remained critical after the bill's passage. Green MEPs, historically strong animal welfare advocates, also voted against the bill, saying it did not go far enough.

According to Emily McIvor, senior EU adviser for the Humane Society International, an animal protection organisation, although the EU rules concerning animal experiments were "always bound to favour commercial interests over animal welfare", some progress has been done.

"For decades scientists in many member states have been able to experiment on live animals without projects being subject to ethical assessment or compulsory authorisation. Proper scrutiny can now be introduced in these countries for the first time, and the impact that could have on animal welfare must not be underestimated," she is quoted as saying in the organisation's statement.

Pro-testing outfit 'Understanding Animal Research' however called the final bill a good compromise. "The new European law will be a perfect opportunity for the Coalition Government in the UK to bring science and medical progress into balance with animal welfare," said Simon Festing, head of the organisation.

Meat 'taboo' debated at Bonn climate summit

Animal agriculture is responsible for a significant share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but until recently it 'was an issue that was really brushed under the carpet'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. EU awaits UK proposals in final push for Brexit breakthrough
  2. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  3. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  4. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  5. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  6. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  7. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  8. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya