Posted: 14 April 2007
An unprecedented number of MEPs have pledged their support for a complete end to experiments on primates across Europe, and the campaign has received a major boost with the backing of leading EU statesmen. We are now stepping up the campaign to make ending the suffering of lab primates a reality and a new Written Declaration and new phase of the campaign will be launched in the European Parliament on World Lab Animal Day (April 24th).
Thanks to the letters that you have sent to your MEPs, Written Declaration 64 for a ban on the use of primates in experiments achieved 88 signatures in the European Parliament. This text, sponsored, on our behalf, by MEPs Sajjad Karim, Carl Shlyter, David Martin, Robert Evans and Paulo Casaca was tabled in October 2006 and lapsed in January 2007 receiving the support of MEPs from all nationalities and political parties. Amongst the signatories were Caroline Lucas, British Green MEP, John Bowis, former Health Minister in the John Major Government and Michel Rocard, former French Socialist Prime Minister.
At the time, our Written Declaration was the third most successful Declaration before the European Parliament (behind only the Written Declaration on ‘Fifa’s decision regarding EU Member States’ with 97 signatures, and that ‘to combat trafficking and prostitution of women and children’ with 122 signatures).
The Declaration asked the European Commission to ban immediately the use of great apes and wild-caught primates in the EU and to phase out the use of all primates in experiments within 6 years.
88 signatures is an important landmark given that many European parliamentarians are unaware of the extent of primate suffering in laboratories – almost all of the experiments take place in the UK, France and Germany. We undertook a major awareness drive writing to all MEPs in ten different languages – Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Providing copies and summaries of our Primate Nations report.
The timing of this activity has been extremely important because the European Commission is currently finalising proposals for a revision of Directive 86/609/EC on the use of animals in scientific research. The revision will determine the rules governing animal experimentation across Europe – a total of 11 million animals.
The NAVS and ADI provided detailed answers to the EU’s expert stakeholder consultation on a wide range of animal experimentation issues including husbandry; the validity of animal experimentation; freedom of information; non-animal methods. Whilst remaining within the remit of the consultation we presented a powerful scientific case for ending animal experimentation across Europe. Undoubtedly, many animals can be helped by the Directive 86/609 revision process. However, it is in the field of primate experiments where there appears to be the clearest opportunity.
The EU is considering several options on primate experiments. These include a long, ten year, phase out of the use of wild caught primates. There seems no justification in delaying this, since the matter of captive breeding has been addressed since the 1970s. Currently, the minority of primates used in EU labs are wild caught – a wild caught ban could be implemented immediately. The importance of a ban is that it will influence other users, and, importantly, it constrains primate use and effectively prevents further expansion of the trade – for which there is clearly a hunger amongst UK experimenters.
Whilst the 86/609 consultation seeks to steer people away from the notion of prohibiting primate experiments, it nonetheless acknowledges the suffering of these animals and that some restriction is appropriate. This is a significant admission.
On the issue of experiments on great apes, the consultation is more equivocal: “A ban on the use of Great Apes would have a positive effect on animal welfare as Great Apes are animals especially sensitive to pain and suffering.” Use of great apes is at an all time low, six apes used in 1999, none in 2002. Therefore a ban is a relatively simple process. This would establish a very important precedent, prevent a future rise in use, and would be important for ending experiments on chimps in countries where significant numbers remain in labs such as the USA and Japan.
But there is a depressing caveat: “In case of a total ban on the use of Great Apes, a centralised facility for these animals would be required in order to anticipate future needs. The cost of running such facility with the given uncertainty of future demands would be high”. This would be for “limited exemption”.
In our consultation, we responded: “The situation over the past 20 years in the EU clearly has not warranted a centralised great ape experimentation facility. With more non-animal methods of research both fundamental and applied becoming available to scientists each year, there does not seem a logical reason to anticipate demand for research on Great Apes. To build such a facility would increase the opportunity for such research and more likely lock the EU into a certain level of great ape research in perpetuity.”
We will be strongly opposing a centralised chimp lab and calling for a genuine ban.
The Commission is expected to publish its proposal for a revision of Directive 86/609/EC in the first half of this year. The European Parliament will then have the power to amend the text. Consequently, our actions now, such as our campaign being launched on Lab Animal Day are incredibly important and could have a long lasting impact.
The UK government has already made it clear that it will not give up primate experiments and other states will be equally intransigent. This will be a hard battle, but we know we can count on your support to respond to our appeals and calls to action.
Next steps: A new Written Declaration will be launched in the European Parliament on Lab Animal Day (April 24th) with an ADI/NAVS reception in Strasbourg. This will showcase evidence on the use of primates in research, problems with species differences, modern replacement techniques and will be addressed by a number of MEPs.
The New Written Declaration: “Urges the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to use the revision process of Directive 86/609/EC as an opportunity to:
i. Make ending the use of apes and wild caught monkeys in scientific experiments an urgent priority;
ii. Establish a timetable for replacing the use of all primates in scientific experiments with alternatives.”
This Declaration already has cross-party, international support and is sponsored by John Bowis (UK – European People’s Party), Martine Roure (France – Party of European Socialists), Jens Holm (Sweden – European United Left), Rebecca Harms (Germany – Greens) and Mojca Drcar Murko (Slovenia – Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe).
A good campaign can’t happen without hard work, and we would like to thank those who have helped to make Phase one of this campaign such a success. There is not the space to thank everyone, but we would like to specially thank the following:
MEP Sajjad Karim, sponsor of the Declaration, campaigned tirelessly in Brussels and Strasbourg distributing our materials to all his colleagues in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. He also contacted the European Commission calling for a ban.
MEPs David Martin and Robert Evans talked to the press and alerted their comrades of the European Socialist Party, John Bowis, Conservative MEP, Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca, and Green MEPs Caroline Lucas and Carl Schlyter all lobbied within their respective parties, amongst colleagues, and all spoke out in the media backing the campaign.
We also appreciate the support of those groups who all contacted their MEPs and are backing the campaign: Animal Aid, Animal Rights Action Network, Ligue Française des Droits de l’Animal, Ligue Française Contre la Vivisection, Menschen für Tierrechte Bayern e.V. and the Greek Animal Welfare Fund. We apologise if we have missed anyone.
Finally thank you to all of you,our supporters, who took the time to contact your MEPs.