EU General Affairs Council approves new draft rules on animal experiments

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
BRUSSELS–The European Union General Affairs Council on May
11, 2010 approved a new draft directive on animal experiments. The
present directive has been in effect since 1986. The new directive
is expected to be approved by the full European Parliament in
September 2010.
“Under the new provisions member states will be required to
ensure that experiments with animals are replaced, wherever
possible, by an alternative method; the number of animals used in
projects is reduced to a minimum without compromising the quality of
results; [and] the degree of pain and suffering caused to animals
is limited to the minimum,” the council said in a prepared statement.

“Experiments with great apes will be prohibited,” the
statement added. Exceptions may be made for research “essential for
the survival of the species itself or because of an unexpected
outbreak of a life-threatening or debilitating disease in humans.
Non-human primates [of any species] may only be used if they are the
offspring of animals bred in captivity, or if they are sourced from
self-sustaining colonies.” The latter provisions bring the EU
directive into conformity with the requirements of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species.
“Member states will also have to ensure that all breeders,
suppliers and users are authorized and registered with the competent
authority,” the EU statement continued. “The new directive,” the
EU statement stipulated, “will cover vertebrate animals, including
larval and foetal forms of mammals from the last third of their
normal development, and cephalopods (for instance squid).”
The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments objected
that the 1986 directive already requires that animal experiments must
be replaced wherever possible and that animal use must be kept to a
minimum, so that claiming this provision as an improvement is
“Worse,” said the coalition, “the new law would allow
animals to be used even where there is an adequate replacement,” if
the replacement is not listed in European legislation. “Based on the
latest EU statistics,” the coalition said, “this would account for
around 78% of all experiments, such as those conducted for basic
The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments questioned
whether any of the goals of the draft directive were achieved, in
view of the many exemptions included due to lobbying by the
biomedical research and pharmaceutical industries.
“Eurogroup for Animals,” representing animal welfare
organizations in all EU member states, “welcomes the Council’s
decision,” Eurogroup said in a written statement, “but remains
concerned that the new EU law does not go far enough in promoting the
use of non-animal alternatives.”
Eurogroup director Sonja Van Tichelen called the draft
agreement 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,” Van Tichelen said.
“Previous drafts of the directive seemed set to severely
hamper European biomedical research,” wrote Allson Abbott for
Nature, after the draft that was approved on May 11 was released for
comment on April 7, 2010. “The final directive,” Abbot assessed,
“has largely diffused scientists’ concerns.”

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