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October 21, 2009

65,000 Cyber-Marchers Reach European Parliament as Animal Experiments Directive Is Debated

Humane Society International/Europe

BRUSSELS — On Wednesday, more than 65,000 people in cyberspace — including comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Joanna Lumley and rock stars Brian May and Chrissie Hynde — are asking European Union politicians in Strasbourg to defend better science without animal suffering. The world's first ever cyber-protest for animals in laboratories was presented to Members of Parliament at the Parliamentary Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals meeting to discuss the revision of the EU animal experiments law, Directive 86/609.

Launched during World Week for Animals in Laboratories in April 2009, the Make Animal Testing History virtual march has received rapid support from citizens in the EU and beyond. The Make Animal Testing History coalition comprises the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, Four Paws and Humane Society International.

So far, more than 65,000 people 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. Marchers also want to see far greater action on the ultimate goal of replacing animals with alternative methods. In particular, they support proposals for an EU Centre of Excellence in Alternatives to develop non-animal research methods in the biosciences and toxicology and co-ordinate an EU-wide strategy on replacement. 

The European Commission published proposed improvements to the 20-year-old Directive in November 2008. Since then, sustained lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry has seen EU politicians cut back on some of the key measures intended to improve animal protection. Proposed bans on using great apes and wild-caught monkeys in experiments, restrictions on experiments causing sustained and severe levels of animal suffering and mandatory ethical review of experiments all remain threatened if politicians can't be persuaded to listen to the compassionate wishes of EU citizens.

The Make Animal Testing History virtual march was launched by three key organisations lobbying for more humane science through revision of the Directive: Humane Society International, the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research and Four Paws. It has also received celebrity support from comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Joanna Lumley OBE and rockers Brian May CBE and Chrissie Hynde.

"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. "With animal testing so often failing to produce relevant results, we don't need to make a choice between protecting people or animals because by replacing animal methods, we can better protect both at the same time. That is what we're urging EU politicians to do through the revision of Directive 86/609. We are grateful for the efforts of the Swedish Presidency to advance negotiations quickly and now hope discussions will be concluded at the earliest opportunity."

Following first reading in the European Parliament in May of this year, Member State experts have been discussing the Commission's proposal and the Parliament's position on key measures. In the coming weeks, there will be negotiations between the Chair of the Council working group and representatives of the Parliament, ahead of a possible early second reading agreement being reached and political negotiations being concluded before Sweden hands over the EU Presidency at the end of December 2009. 

The new EU law on animal experiments will then be transposed into national law in all EU Member States and should be fully implemented within two years.

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Note: The Parliamentary Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals is the one of the first-established and longest running Intergroups. Its President is Green MEP Dr Caroline Lucas. animalwelfareintergroup.eu

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at hsieurope.org.

Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research - the UK's leading non-animal medical research charity funding cutting-edge science in areas such as cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease, all without  animal experiments. drhadwentrust.org

FOUR PAWS - an international animal welfare and rescue charity running hard-hitting campaigns, four sanctuaries for rescued bears, a wildlife reserve and a stray animal project in Eastern Europe. fourpaws.org.uk

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