MEP Committee sanctions better legal protection for research animals

1 April 2009

Posted by:

Category: Policy Issues

The Agriculture committee in the European Parliament yesterday voted to pass a report on the revision of EU Directive 86/609 on the protection of animals used in scientific research. The proposed Directive would mean substantially higher levels of regulation and improved standards of animal welfare for all animal experiments across Europe.

The revised Directive should bring a greater emphasis on the ‘three Rs’ of Reduction, Refinement and Replacement; harmonisation of animal welfare standards across Europe; and balanced regulation that is consistent across Member States.

The MEPs on the Agriculture committee have not, however, supported a number of bans or restrictions on various types of research, which would damage research or drive it abroad. Nor did they support extending the scope of the Directive to potentially many millions of sometimes microscopic non-sentient animals. The proposal published by the European Commission in November 2008 had suggested that the regulation should apply to decapod crustacea (which would include shrimps and plankton) as well as embryonic forms of vertebrate animals (which could have included fish eggs laid by the tens of thousands). Such measures would present an unworkable administrative burden without any gain in animal welfare.

MEPs did vote for regulations that would ensure planned tests were subjected to compulsory ethical assessment to take account of the public's concerns. This would be the first time there has been such a legal requirement across the EU.

MEPs rejected the idea that tests using non-human primates should be restricted to 'life-threatening or debilitating' conditions. This could have ruled out much fundamental research on which the development of future medicines and treatments is based.

Dr Simon Festing, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research said 'It would be a significant step forward to see all countries in the EU raise their standards of regulation and welfare to the notably high levels achieved for animal research in the UK.'