European Commission doesn’t go far enough to meet citizens’ demands to improve animal welfare

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European Commission doesn’t go far enough to meet citizens’ demands to improve animal welfare

15 June 2015
News
Today the European Commission published their response to the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) ‘Stop Vivisection’. The success of this ECI reaching the required million signatures highlighted the fact that animal testing remains a great concern for the citizens of the EU and these concerns must be addressed.

Eurogroup for Animals is very disappointed that there is not even a minimal commitment to funding alternatives under programmes like Horizon 2020 in the Commission’s Communication. This is a missed opportunity where the Commission could show their commitment to Article 47[1] of the Directive 2010//63/EU which states that they shall contribute to the development and validation of alternative approaches.

This is even more disappointing as at the recent European Parliament Hearing[2] on the ECI, there was a clear call for and support of funding and resources for alternatives from the organisers of the ECI, the Parliamentarians, the animal user community and from those opposed to the use of animals. Notably, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the 2008 Nobel Laureate of Medicine for Physiology, argued that the Commission should support research into alternative methods.

“Reference in the Commission’s Communication to previous investments in alternatives is not reassuring as the priority focus of these projects was on toxicology. More investment is needed in other areas, such as biomedical research. Toxicology, through regulatory testing accounts for just 9% of all animal tests in Europe while biomedical research represents nearly two-thirds[3],” stated Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals.

“However we welcome the fact that the Commission acknowledges the need for a scientific debate. A scientific conference hosted by the Commission to exploit the advances in science for the development of scientifically valid non-animal approaches and advance towards the goal of phasing out animal testing is a welcome step forward. We believe that without a serious scientific debate the EU would be letting down European citizens,” she added.

“It is now time to revert the focus and efforts back on the implementation and enforcement of the Directive. Eurogroup has on numerous occasions, since the adoption of the Directive in 2010 stated that there will be no improvement to animal welfare without proper and full implementation of the Directive across all Member States, as highlighted in the Commission Communication. Therefore more focused attention must now be given to the directive’s implementation. It is a shared responsibility and great opportunity for collaboration between all players to enable the sharing of experiences and expertise on the requirements laid out in the directive and disseminate these in best practices,” Ms Hameleers concluded.

The review which is due to take place in 2017 is of paramount importance. The European Commission needs to involve all stakeholders in the review process. There is a dire need for a constructive dialogue and engagement of all stakeholders on this important issue.

It is an EU obligation, from the Directive, to contribute more to alternatives. Eurogroup is playing its role in driving the development of a strategy working towards the goal to replace animal use in science, testing and education. An EU strategy is necessary to promote innovation and uptake of more humane state-of-the-art methods. The EU desperately needs a horizontal strategy for policy development to ensure the proper implementation of the 3Rs and to prevent new animal testing requirements. It is important to promote a paradigm shift and to stop relying on the use of animals as the golden rule and recognise that advancing medical progress, research and innovation is possible with methods which do not rely on animals. Informing and engaging with decision makers, and the development of collaborations and dialogue with external stakeholders and potential partners is essential. Furthermore, Eurogroup calls on DG Research to commit to providing the necessary funding for projects which would help fulfil the ultimate goal of Directive 2010/63/EU to replace animal testing.

For now Directive 2010/63/EU remains the legislation governing the use of animals for scientific purposes in Europe, together we need work toward it being implemented and enforced to its fullest such that it promotes improved animal welfare, faster and increased development and uptake of 3Rs, and improved quality of science.

For more information please contact:

Martyn Griffiths,
T: +32 (0)2 740 08 23 | E m.griffiths@eurogroupforanimals.org

The European Citizens Initiative, entitled ‘Stop Vivisection’, urges the European Commission to abrogate Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes[4]. The ECI[5] received over 1,173,000 signatures.

The Commission’s Communication can be downloaded here.

[1] Article 47 of Directive 20-10/63/EU, Alternative approaches: 1.   The Commission and the Member States shall contribute to the development and validation of alternative approaches which could provide the same or higher levels of information as those obtained in procedures using animals, but which do not involve the use of animals or use fewer animals or which entail less painful procedures, and they shall take such other steps as they consider appropriate to encourage research in this field.

[2] On May 11th the European Parliament hosted a public hearing on the European Citizens’ Initiative Stop Vivisection, which allowed representatives of the initiative, experts and members to exchange views.

[3] EU Statistics (data 2010, published 2013): Nearly two-thirds of these animals are used in research and development of human medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and in biological studies of a fundamental nature. Production and quality control of products and devices in human, veterinary medicine and dentistry required the use of around 15 per cent of the total number of animals while toxicological and other safety evaluations represent nearly 9 per cent of the total animals used.

[4] OJ L 276, 20.10.2010, p. 33–79; Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes

[5] The wording of the ECI: We urge the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation and instead makes compulsory the use – in biomedical and toxicological research – of data directly relevant for the human species.

More investment is needed in other areas, such as biomedical research. Toxicology, through regulatory testing accounts for just 9% of all animal tests in Europe while biomedical research represents nearly two-thirds.
Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals
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