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October 21, 2009

Sixty-Five Thousand-Strong Cyber-Rally

Participants demand better science without animal suffering

Humane Society International/Europe

The world's first ever cyber-protest arrived in Strasbourg this week with a strong message to European Union politicians that the EU’s outdated animal experiments law, Directive 86/609, must be revised to place a greater emphasis on replacing animal use with more relevant and humane 21st century science. Representatives of Humane Society International and our partners, the Dr Hadwen Trust and Four Paws, met with members of the European Parliament Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, as well as those working most closely on negotiations with the European Commission and Council, in a special session to discuss the Directive.

Launched in April during World Week for Animals in Laboratories, the Make Animal Testing History cyber-rally campaign has garnered support from more than 65,000 citizens in the EU and beyond, including comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Joanna Lumley and rock stars Chrissie Hynde and Brian May. Participants in the cyber-rally have pledged their support for the revised Directive to give animals greater protection by restricting the severity of experiments and requiring independent ethical and scientific review before experiments are licensed. Supporters also want to see far greater action on the ultimate goal of replacing animals with alternative methods.

What's at stake

The European Commission published proposed improvements to the 20-year-old Directive in November 2008. Since then, lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry has seen EU politicians scale back on some of the key animal protection measures. Proposed restrictions on experiments causing severe and sustained suffering, mandatory ethical review of animal experiments, and bans on using wild-caught monkeys and great apes in experiments all remain threatened if politicians continue to disregard public opinion.

“The revision of Directive 86/609 is a unique opportunity for Europe to make a better deal for animals in laboratories and a better deal for medical science with the promotion of advanced non-animal research techniques,” says HSI senior EU policy advisor Emily McIvor.

Political support

Presenting the pledges from our Make Animal Testing History cyber rally to EU parliamentarians and institutions has given a huge boost to our efforts to revise the EU’s animal research law. Intergroup President and Green MEP Dr Caroline Lucas welcomed the cyber-rally as a “unique way of expressing the public’s clear compassionate wish to see Europe take the lead in modern, humane medical research without animal suffering.”

Dr Lucas added: “More than 12 million animals are used in EU experiments each year, yet experiments on animals can be unreliable as a guide to human biology and the range of viable alternatives, such as epidemiology, the use of cell cultures, human tissue and computer simulation, is increasing all the time. The European Commission has already stated that one of its ultimate aims is ‘to replace animal experiments with methods not entailing the use of an animal’. The Make Animal Testing History virtual march sends a clear message to all EU politicians that this is also what EU citizens wish to see.”

What you can do

Please keep marching, and urge your friends and family to do the same!