June 21, 2010
Survey: Europeans Increasingly Question Ethics of Animal Experiments
A European Commission Eurobarometer survey [PDF] published June 21, 2010 reveals that public opinion within the EU is divided on whether or not scientists should be allowed to experiment on animals, even in pursuit of medical research.
When shown the statement “Scientists should be allowed to experiment on animals like dogs and monkeys if this can help sort out human health problems,” public opinion was fairly evenly divided, with 44 percent of respondents agreeing and 37 percent disagreeing with the use of animals. However, in the five years since the last Eurobarometer survey on this subject, levels of disagreement with the use of animals like dogs and primates have increased by three percentage points, the survey says.
Agreement with the statement was greatest in Spain (65 percent) and at 50 percent or more in countries such as Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey and Greece. However in many EU countries there was overwhelming disagreement with the use of dogs and non-human primates for medical research—in Finland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, half or more of respondents disagreed with the use of dogs and primates for experiments.
When questioned about the use of mice in research, 66 percent of respondents agreed with their use for medical research.
The survey reveals growing public concern about experimenting on live animals, with only 44 percent of European Union citizens finding experiments on dogs and monkeys acceptable. With around 24,114 and 9,772 experiments, respectively, on these species in the EU each year, this is hardly a resounding endorsement of current practice. EU politicians recently agreed on measures to revise EU law on animal experiments [PDF], but despite considerable public support for change, the revision will continue to permit invasive and lethal experiments on dogs and monkeys, with no strategy for replacing their use over time. This survey clearly shows how far EU politicians have misjudged the public mood by missing this vital opportunity to replace experiments on animals with more modern and humane alternative techniques.