European Day for Humane Science: working hand in hand to transition to non-animal science


European Day for Humane Science: working hand in hand to transition to non-animal science

22 September 2023
“The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn’t work in humans.” This statement was made over 20 years ago by Richard Klausner, former director of the National Cancer Institute.

Ever since, the poor translation of research to human benefit has been well documented. Yet, more than 7,9 million animal experiments were conducted in the EU and Norway in 2020. 

On this European Day for Humane Science we would like to highlight that, to a certain degree, thoughts are shifting and actions too. Hundreds of EU scientists continue to call on the European Commission and Member States to commit to establishing an EU roadmap with clear short, medium, and long term actions to accelerate the transition to non-animal science. The need for a shift towards more fit for purpose, human-relevant science is also repeatedly expressed by EU citizens. According to a recent opinion poll, 77% of EU citizens believe that the European Commission and Member States should develop a coordinated strategy to transition to scientific research, testing, and education without the use of animals. This has been echoed by the successful European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing, which collected over 1.2 million signatures.

Over the past years, the European Commission has also been paying increasing attention to the phasing out of animal testing. This has been reflected in the funding of diverse research projects and initiatives related to alternative methods to animal testing, such as the European Partnership on Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing which aims to replace animal-based approaches with non-animal testing methods/New Approach Methodologies (NAMs), the ASPIS cluster which focuses on animal-free safety assessment of chemicals, the PARC partnership which focuses on increasing the acceptance and use of NAMs, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Summer School on non-animal approaches in science which provides students with the opportunity to learn from experts in the fields of cutting edge non-animal technologies, and the JRC reviews on advanced non-animal models in seven disease areas. However, while we see the uptake of non-animal methods growing in some areas, our reliance on animal-based research and testing remains relatively unchanged.
The JRC summer school was a wonderful opportunity to explore new perspectives for addressing my research in the field of non-animal science. This experience was extremely enriching, both professionally and personally, and highlighted the strong determination of the research community to advance alternative methods to replace the use of animals in research and testing.
Martina Benedetti, winner of Eurogroup for Animals’ JRC Summer School grant

Although the European Commission ignored citizens’ calls to uphold the ban on animal testing for cosmetics in its response to the ECI Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics, it committed to develop a roadmap towards ultimately phasing out animal testing for chemical safety assessments, and is exploring the possibility of coordinating concrete actions with all EU Member States to reduce animal uses in biomedical research

By working together, citizens, researchers, industry, governments, EU agencies and the European Commission can deliver better and humane science