9 September 2010
NEW ANIMAL TESTING RULES 'A MISSED OPPORTUNITY'
A European agreement to strengthen rules on animal testing, which have been unchanged since 1986, has been labelled as a missed opportunity by Labour's Euro-MPs.
In a vote in Strasbourg this week, a package of measures were approved to minimise the exposure of animals to unnecessary suffering while giving scientists the freedom to carry out vital experiments.
However, North East Labour MEP Stephen Hughes, believes the agreement could have gone further without jeopardising life-saving research. He said: "We have waited almost a quarter of a century for new rules on animal experiments, so it is disappointing that the agreement is not more ambitious."
Although the revised directive will bring other EU countries in line with the higher standards used in the UK, key provisions that would have firmly committed Europe to the reduction and replacement of the use of animals in experiments are missing from the revised legislation.
Mr Hughes added: "We had hoped for clear mechanisms to ensure that replacements for animal experiments were rapidly introduced but the directive has failed to deliver."
Labour MEPs had hoped that the agreement would include a procedure to regularly review the use of animals in procedures, so that rules would keep step with developments in technological and scientific knowledge. They are also concerned that the directive may make it harder for countries to adopt stronger rules to avoid the unnecessary suffering of animals.
Mr Hughes said: "I regret that the revised directive does not send out a clearer and stronger signal to EU governments encouraging them to adopt higher animal welfare standards than those laid out under the rules adopted today.
"I am concerned that restrictions on member states adopting higher welfare standards imply a race to the bottom rather than a push to the top when it comes to animal welfare protection.
"The UK has always prided itself on striving for higher animal welfare standards and my concern is that the new text may severely limit the UK's ability to push for higher standards in the future.
"This is not a question of whether we put animal rights ahead of medical research. I am disappointed that Conservative and Lib Dem MEPs supported this race to the bottom when we could have done more to minimise the suffering to which animals are exposed while allowing researchers to do their vital work."
He concluded: "There are positive steps in this new package. It will enable the continuation of vital research into new medicines and diseases while improving the quality of life for thousands of animals across the EU. It is probably the best deal that could be struck. But it could have and should have gone further.
"An opportunity for higher animal welfare standards has been lost."
For more information please call Cyndi Beaver on 07764198400