National Anti-vivisection Society

 

National Antivisection Society

EU institutions agree new lab rules but measures fall short of robust animal protection

Posted: 10 December 2009. Updated: 10 December 2009

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Helder Constantino, Head of Parliamentary Affairs, is interviewed on a stand at the European Parliament

As the new Directive on animal testing has progressed through the European Parliament, Animal Defenders International (ADI) has lobbied hard to push for the best possible protection for lab animals.

However, decisions made by key European institutions on 7 December 2009 bitterly disappointed ADI as so many compromises to animal protection had been made under the Directive to placate an industry that refuses to be regulated.

In a meeting of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the proposals under the new Directive on the protection of animals used in scientific procedures were finally agreed. The dossier of rules is expected to be formally adopted by Council of Ministers and European Parliament next year. The new Directive was proposed to replace the outdated EC Directive 86/609/EC.

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Alexandra Cardenas and Philipp Weber from the ADI team leaflet MEPs attending the plenary session

Bold steps watered down

The original Commission proposals, which were revealed in November 2008, contained some bold steps forward but sadly many of these have been watered down by the European Council and the European Parliament.

ADI welcomed the measures to implement thematic reviews of areas of animal research to speed-up the use and development of alternatives. However, the European Parliament voted for an amendment to hold biannual reviews but unfortunately the outcome of the negotiations concluded on a much weaker position: it is now down to the Commission to decide whenever to hold reviews.

To the astonishment of many MEPs, the Council proposed to stop Member States from going further than the Directive in the protection of animals. The legality of such a provision is in doubt and it is not clear at this stage whether it will be part of the final text.

The phase out of the use of monkeys born of wild caught parents which could help stop primates being taken from the wild by dealers for use in breeding facilities was agreed, but the European Commission’s original proposal was much more robust.

The principle of a full authorisation procedure for all animal testing, which should be one of the cornerstones of the Directive, was weakened, as the Rapporteur and the Council agreed on a simplified procedure for potentially millions of animals used in regulatory testing.

Disappointingly, the 3Rs requirements were also narrowed by the Council, limiting the requierments for scientists to use alternatives “approved by Community legislation”, which means that there will be no obligation to use many scientifically satisfactory methods simply because they didn’t go through the lengthy bureaucratic process of EU regulatory approval.

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Tim Phillips, Campaign Director, after the plenary vote

New measures fall short

Tim Phillips, Campaign Director, ADI, said: “After 25 years of waiting, laboratory animals and public deserved more. Over the course of a year, the Council and European Parliament have significantly weakened the original Commission proposals. It is not good enough for politicians to say that this is an improvement on a Directive that is 25 years old, there have been huge advances in the replacement of these animals in that quarter of a century. The new Directive simply does not reflect decades of progress, but instead highlights the lobbying power and influence of the animal experimentation industry.”

He continued: “We welcome measures to introduce thematic reviews and the phase out of using the offspring of wild caught parents in experiments but we are particularly disappointed that the Directive has not provided strong protection for lab animals nor called for increased use of alternatives to animal experiments. Sadly, this was a missed opportunity that will impact on the future of millions of lab animals for years to come.”

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