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September 8, 2010

Europe Adopts New Law on Animal Experiments

HSI says thousands of animals could be better protected if law is rigorously enforced

Humane Society International/Europe

8 Sept 2010—Animal protection organisation Humane Society International [1] has welcomed final adoption of a new EU law on animal experiments [2] as a boost for animal welfare and the development of humane alternatives, but warns that to make meaningful improvements member states must rigorously enforce the new rules. HSI is also urging non-EU countries to follow Europe’s example for the benefit of animals and modern science.

The European Parliament voted to adopt the new law, which replaces the nearly 25-year-old EU Directive 86/609 [3] that regulates the use of more than 12 million animals in EU laboratories each year [4]. The new law—which has been hotly contended during years of negotiation—introduces key improvements that will significantly strengthen animal protection in many of the newer member state countries where only minimum standards presently exist. In other countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, it is likely to be ‘business as usual’ with few new restrictions on animal use to apply.

Says Emily McIvor, senior EU adviser on research & toxicology for Humane Society International:

“Whilst Europe’s new law on animal experiments was always bound to favour commercial interests over animal welfare, there is still much to celebrate. For decades scientists in many member states have been able to experiment on live animals without projects being subject to ethical assessment or compulsory authorisation. Proper scrutiny can now be introduced in these countries for the first time, and the impact that could have on animal welfare must not be underestimated. We will also see a new EU-wide effort on developing advanced humane alternatives to animal tests, helping to set the foundation for a future without animal experiments. However, such improvements depend on member states rigorously enforcing the law, and Humane Society International will be working hard to ensure they do so. We also hope other countries will now follow Europe’s lead so that standards are improved globally. For countries like the United States, where millions of laboratory-bred birds, rats and mice used in experiments receive no legal protection under the country’s Animal Welfare Act, matching EU standards would be a huge step forward.”

Positive outcomes of the new law include:

  • A ban on the use of great apes such as chimpanzees (with prohibitive limitations on opportunities to deviate from the ban; no great apes currently used in EU labs).
  • Ethical and scientific review before animal experiments are authorised.
  • The requirement for all breeders, suppliers and users of animals to demonstrate compliance, including through choice of equipment and animal housing, and training of personnel.
  • Increased action at EU- and member state-level to develop and promote non-animal methods in all areas including medical research and education.

Negative outcomes of the new law include:

  • Many thousands of animals will still be permitted to endure ‘severe suffering’, the highest severity classification in law. Examples of severe suffering in the law include toxicity testing to death; tumours causing progressive lethal disease and long-lasting pain; unstable fractures or trauma to produce multiple organ failure; inescapable electric shock or complete isolation of social animals for prolonged periods.
  • Animals can still be subjected to repeated painful experiments with few limitations.
  • No significant restrictions on the use of non-human primates (other than symbolic ban on great apes).
  • No commitment to a targeted EU strategy to reduce and replace animal experiments over time.

EU member states now have two years to transpose the new Directive into national law. Where there are opportunities for national legislation to go further than provisions in the new Directive, such as in the development of new alternative research techniques, HSI urges member states to take decisive action in favour of humane science.


Notes to Editor:

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

2. The new law on animal experiments was adopted September 8th by the European Parliament in Strasbourg and by the Council of Minsters on June 3rd 2010 (see: Council position CSL 06106/1/2010 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5713682 and ‘text adopted’).

3. The new law will replace Council Directive 86/609/EEC of 24 November 1986 on the approximation of laws and administrative provisions of the Member States regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31986L0609:EN:NOT).

4. 12.1 million animals were used in EU experiments in 2005; Fifth Report on the Statistics on the Number of Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes in the Member States of the European Union published 5/11/2007 (these are the most recent EU wide statistics available).