Victory for common sense in Europe
The European Commission has today (3 June 2015) responded to the European Citizen’s Initiative that sought to repeal the current EU Directive and impose a ban on animal research within the EU. The Commission has announced that it does not intend to submit a proposal to repeal Directive 2010/63/EU and is not intending to propose the adoption of a new legislative framework.
The Commission’s response notes that the organisers of the ECI disagreed with the effectiveness of animal research, but continues: “… the Commission does not share the view that scientific principles invalidate the 'animal model'. Indeed, despite differences with humans, animal models have been the key scientific drivers to develop almost all existing effective and safe medical treatments and prevention measures for human and animal diseases.
“In medicine development, animal models have been very effective in removing candidate medicines that could have been dangerous to humans when tested in later clinical phases. In areas of great biological complexity where existing alternatives do not yet provide sufficient predictive power, animal models are still needed to decipher the complex biological mechanisms leading to an observed effect or to provide the information needed to ensure that a product is safe.”
The ECI was financed mainly by anti-animal research groups in Italy and was signed by 1,173,130 people from within the EU, 59% of them from Italy. This equates to less than 0.25% of the EU population. Only 19,472 people from the UK signed the petition.
As part of their consideration of the ECI petition, Commission representatives met the organisers so that they could explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative. The organisers also had the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament. Understanding Animal Research worked with others in the UK and EU bioscience sector to develop a joint statement opposing the ECI. We also prepared briefings for MEPs on the importance of animal research and explanations for the arguments that the petition’s organisers were likely to make.
We welcome the Commission's response to the European Citizens’ Initiative and share the view that the current Directive supports both good animal welfare and good science. It has the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) at its heart and the bioscience sector in the UK is committed to full implementation of the Directive.
The UK bioscience community is also committed to increasing openness about the use of animals in research, as evidenced by its broad support for the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK. Understanding Animal Research will soon be publishing the first Annual Progress Report for the Concordat, which will bring together examples of openness and public engagement from the Concordat’s 90 signatory organisations.