News & Views
MEP’s favour EU Action Plan to reduce the use of Animals in Experimental Research
Sep 20 2021
“This vote signals the need for systemic change in the EU’s approach to safety science and health research, with Parliament embracing an historic opportunity to take animal suffering out of the equation and shift the focus to modern, human relevant technologies.” Troy Seidle
Animal Welfare groups have applauded the European Parliament’s announcement (Sept 16) for adoption of a resolution vote that calls on the European Commission to establish an EU-wide Action Plan for the phase out of the use of animals in experiments through definition of milestones and targets that will incentivise progress in the use of non-animal human-relevant methods.
Nearly 10 million animals are used in invasive experiments in EU laboratories every year, including monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats and mice, a huge number of animals that has remained relatively unchanged in the last decade.
Achievable Objectives needed
The move signals the recognition that current initiatives alone are not sufficient enough to achieve the active phase-out of animals used for all scientific purposes and that a much more coordinated approach ‘with ambitious and achievable objectives’ is needed.
Eurogroup for Animals, Cruelty Free Europe, Humane Society International/Europe, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments and PETA, representing over 100 organisations from 24 EU Member States, have campaigned for the passing of the resolution which also includes:
- Sufficient medium and long-term funding to be made available to ensure the fast development, validation and introduction of alternative testing methods including through increased funding under Horizon Europe.
- Where animal experiments are still needed to gain scientific insights for certain diseases due to the current unavailability of non-animal methods the testing regimes must only take place where conditions are optimised to minimise pain, distress and suffering and protect the welfare of the animals concerned.
The resolution “on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education” was adopted with 667 votes to 4.
The groups are now calling on the Commission to make it a priority.
Systematic change required
Troy Seidle, Humane Society International’s vice president for research and toxicology, said: “This vote signals the need for systemic change in the EU’s approach to safety science and health research, with Parliament embracing an historic opportunity to take animal suffering out of the equation and shift the focus to modern, human relevant technologies. If our goal isn’t to cure cancer in mice or prevent birth defects in rabbits, we need to let go of the unfounded belief that these animals are miniature people and get serious about understanding and predicting human biology in the real world. Human organ-chips, stem cell models and next-generation computing allow us to do exactly that, and can deliver considerable benefits in the study of uniquely human diseases and the assessment of potential new medicines and chemical safety generally. Today with this historic vote, the EU Parliament is calling for pro-active and coherent policies to phase-out animal experiments, such as preferential funding for non-animal methods, training scientists in new technologies and key regulatory changes to chemicals legislation. We call on the Commission to embrace these proposals and recognise that an Action Plan to hasten our departure from animal-based science is in all our interests.”
Opinion polls show that ending animal experiments is a priority for EU citizens: nearly three quarters (72%) agree that the EU should set binding targets and deadlines to phase out testing on animals. This is being echoed by the achievements of the recently launched European Citizens’ Initiative Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing, which has already gathered more than 119,000 signatures in less than three weeks.
Action Plan urged
While the EU Parliament vote is not legally binding, it does now place significant political pressure on the European Commission to respond (usually within three months) and act. HSI/Europe urges the Commission to create the Action Plan requested by Parliament, and stands ready to assist the Commission in devising and implementing concrete proposals.
“This vote by the European Parliament has potentially huge and far-reaching positive consequences. Regulations do exist but have had little significant impact on animal experiments, which have persisted in spite of mounting and formidable evidence against their human relevance and usefulness.
That’s why a proactive plan to phase out animal experiments, while phasing in humane and much more human-specific research and testing methods, should provide impetus and encouragement for scientists, funders and regulators to really act - and, crucially, to make significant, lasting steps towards genuinely effective and successful biomedical research.
It’s a given that the more modern and humane approach to science the more millions of animal lives can be saved each year - but this approach will also reverse decades of failure evident in many areas of research into different human diseases caused by an over reliance on often misleading animal experiments.” Jarrod Bailey, Science Director, Animal Free Research UK.
“The European Parliament understands that the time is right for this action plan, because of the work that scientists have been doing to better understand the limitations of animal studies and the potential of non-animal models. There are no excuses to perpetuate the current level of reliance on animal experiments. It is clear that an ambitious phase-out plan, with clear milestones and achievable objectives, is the next step needed to start reducing significantly the use of animals in science.” Tilly Metz (Greens/EFA, LU) - Chairwoman of the Animals in Science Working Group of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.
“It is now in the hands of the European Commission to establish this EU-wide Action Plan, and we expect the Commission will make this a high-level priority – Because if the Commission is serious about its commitments to EU citizens, it needs to start now the dialogue with all parties to effectively coordinate funding, education and milestones to accelerate the transition to non-animal science.” Jytte Guteland MEP (S&D, SE) Member of the Animals in Science Working Group of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.
“This action plan is a win-win situation for humans, other animals, and the environment and it is imperative that it is led from the top in the Commission – Animal testing is relevant to so many different areas of the Commission’s responsibilities and a coordinated approach to reducing and replacing is essential. Delivering safety and sustainability without animal testing will help deliver the goals of EU Green Deal which is led by Vice-President Frans Timmermans.” Anja Hazekamp MEP (The Left, NL) - Chairwoman of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.
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