Friday

24th Feb 2017

EU animal testing bill worries scientists

  • Gorilla - no longer used in experiments but now to be protected by law (Photo: Wikipedia/Kabir Bakie)

The European Commission has proposed stricter controls on the use of animals in medical testing, including a symbolic ban on experiments on great apes, worrying the scientific community.

The draft directive - in the making for eight years - would outlaw testing on chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangoutans, unless experiments were needed to counter a new epidemic of life-threatening illness.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Use of other primates - such macaques and marmosets - and all animals "likely to experience pain" would be restricted, with measures including ethical evaluations of all new projects by a "competent authority" and rules on appropriate cage size and living environments.

About 12 million animals are used in experiments each year in the EU, the vast majority of which are rats and mice, with monkeys making up just 0.1 percent, Reuters reports. Great apes, however, are no longer used.

Half of all tests are for new drugs, a third for biological research and a small minority for cosmetics products. The EU's new REACH chemicals safety laws may increase the number of tests on substances used in everyday products.

Experiments on primates tend to focus on neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, as well as complex pathologies such as HIV, malaria and cancer.

"It is absolutely important to steer away from testing on animals," environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said, hitting a political note that backs the anti-testing side.

"Scientific research must focus on finding alternative methods to animal testing, but where alternatives are not available, the situation of animals still used in experiments must be improved."

Animal rights campaigners such as the Dr Hadwin Trust for Human Research gave the proposal a guarded welcome, but plan to lobby MEPs to extend the directive to cover sentient invertebrates and animal foetuses, and to ban any test that causes "severe or prolonged pain."

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Europe to lead the world in ending animal experiments and replacing them with the most technologically advanced non-animal techniques science can offer," the group's Emily McIvor said.

Some scientists worry the new legislation will drive animal testing out of Europe to overseas centres, where animals will receive worse treatment than at present, however.

The scientific community is also concerned that MEPs will further tighten up the directive to score political points.

"We are dismayed that some members of the European Parliament are burying their heads in the sands of anti-vivisection propaganda, refusing to even meet researchers or visit animal facilities," Simon Festing, director of the Research Defence Society, told the Telegraph.

"I do despair of the constant battles that we have to fight just to continue to do good science and to save lives. These waves of anti-science we keep experiencing are disquieting," Oxford University neuroscientist Tipu Aziz said in the Guardian.

Opinion

Don't blame Trump for Europe's insecurity

Europe's security architecture was already showing cracks well before Trump's arrival and requires urgent repair work whether he had won or not.

News in Brief

  1. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  2. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  3. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  4. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  5. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  6. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election
  7. British by-election tests Ukip strength after Brexit
  8. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year

Latest News

  1. Don't blame Trump for Europe's insecurity
  2. EU rules out post-Brexit 'hard border' with Northern Ireland
  3. Fewer EU pupils being taught two foreign languages
  4. Women and child refugees face abuse in French camp
  5. Russian military creates 'information force'
  6. Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts
  7. Crowded race to win EU medicines agency
  8. Fighting environmental injustice in Europe