BRUSSELS—Last week at a virtual meeting with cabinet representatives of several European Commissioners, Humane Society International handed over a 155,000-strong petition demanding action by the EU executive to phase animal use out of European science and chemical safety regulations. The HSI petition echoes a resolution of the European Parliament from September 2021, which recognised that a pro-active and coordinated approach for full replacement of animals is lacking. That resolution called on the Commission to develop an ambitious, EU-wide action plan with concrete milestones for monitoring progress.
During the virtual petition hand-over, HSI highlighted several examples of the EU backsliding into animal testing as a default, rather than “only as a last resort” as required by law. For example, a recent Commission proposal to revise chemical information requirements—with the potential to trigger substantial new animal testing for thousands of substances—is being misleadingly characterised as “clarifications only.” HSI has called for this proposal to be scrapped, and for the Commission to suspend new animal testing requested by the European Chemicals Agency for cosmetic ingredients with established safe use histories, pending review of whether such testing satisfies the “last resort” legal requirement.
Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for HSI/Europe, said: “Nearly 10 million animals are used in experiments in EU laboratories annually and this number has remained relatively unchanged in the last decade. This obvious lack of progress requires a comprehensive plan of action that covers animal use for research as well as chemical safety. As a start, we insist that the European Commission upholds the ban on animal testing for cosmetics by suspending all requests for new animal testing of existing cosmetic ingredients with established safe use histories.”
HSI has also asked the Commission to ensure that upcoming changes to chemical legislation replace “tick-box” animal testing for classification with a modern approach to chemical safety that takes advantage of the latest non-animal scientific tools and approaches.
In the longer-term, an Action Plan is needed to put the EU on a sustained path to fully end its reliance on animals in biomedical research, toxicology and education. This can be achieved through strategic shifts in science funding and investments in non-animal approaches, modernised regulatory frameworks across product sectors, and other targeted initiatives involving stakeholders.
Recently conducted opinion polls confirm that EU citizens prioritise ending animal experiments, with nearly three quarters agreeing that the EU should set binding targets and deadlines to phase out testing on animals. The European Citizens’ Initiative Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing, which has already collected more than 360,000 signatures since its launch in September 2021, also sends a clear message about the public support for an EU without animal experiments.
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