EU Members Agree on New Animal Testing Rules

EU - Following years of negotiations, the EU has agreed on new rules governing animal testing in Europe. EU member states met yesterday to sign off on a political agreement paving the way for a new Directive.
calendar icon 12 May 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

The new set of rules will finally replace the hopelessly outdated Directive 86/609/EC on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, which is almost a quarter of a century old.

Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the Council’s decision as it moves forward the revision of the outdated Directive but remains concerned that the new EU law does not fully reflect the high level of public concern about the use of animals in experiments and does not go far enough in promoting the use of non-animal alternatives.

The current agreement is the result of a long debate between EU institutions and stakeholders.

A revision of the rules on the use of animals in experiments was urgently required as the 1986 legislation did not take into account new scientific developments, greater knowledge of the physical and behavioural needs of animals and new applications of animal use which called for more stringent regulation. Scientists also increasingly found animal tests to be unreliable.

"We believe that the compromise reached between the EU institutions is a positive step forward but still not the U-turn needed to adequately protect animals used in research. It is disappointing that issues including a proper system of authorisation of animal use and of ethical review, and minimal standards for animal accommodation and care proved so controversial," said Sonja Van Tichelen, Director of Eurogroup for Animals. "If industry and researchers continue to use animals, they should provide them with suitable housing and limit their use to the minimum."

"We really need a totally different mindset and an overarching European strategy aimed at reducing the suffering of animals and the number of animal tests, with clear targets that replace the most controversial tests, in particular those which entail the use of non-human primates," she added.

In addition, the proposed rules move towards better promotion of the 3Rs principle of replacement, reduction and refinement of animal tests, but Eurogroup is very disappointed because of the removal of the obligation to use alternatives to animal tests where they are ‘reasonably and practicably available’. This requirement should be central to all animal experimentation legislation and its removal constitutes a step backward where the EU should have really taken a lead role for the promotion of humane research.

"We need better protection for animals and people through better science. Alternatives to animal testing simply offer more reliable results and researchers need to ensure that they consider them first," said Dr Kirsty Reid, Eurogroup for Animals’ Policy Officer for Research Animals.

As we approach the final stages of the revision of this legislation it is essential that EU member states implement and properly enforce the adopted legislation to ensure that the welfare of Europe’s research animals is protected.

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