Saturday

27th May 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

Nato needs a European 2%

Europe needs to take care of its on security, but not on Trump's terms, with the 2 percent of GDP mantra flawed as a model.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

Investigation

Fight Club: Russische Spione suchen EU-Rekruten

Sicherheitsexperten warnen, dass russische Geheimdienste Kampfsportvereine nutzen, um potenzielle Unruhestifter in Deutschland und anderen EU-Ländern zu rekrutieren.

EUobserved

Scramble for UK agencies paves way for Trumpian claims

The Spanish health minister this week bragged that Barcelona was “the best city”, had “the best building”, and “the best infrastructure” to host the EU's medicines agency post-Brexit.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms