White rat on purple gloved hands

White rat on purple gloved hands. ©Understanding Animal Research

On 11 May the European Parliament will host a hearing on whether research using animals should be banned across Europe.

This is the result of the ‘Stop Vivisection’ European Citizens’ Initiative that has gained sufficient support from EU citizens to trigger a legislative process.

The Initiative calls for the EU Directive governing animal research to be repealed and all research using animals to be banned across the EU.

The Commission must now examine the Initiative and respond within three months outlining what, if anything, it plans to do. Although they are under no obligation to do anything as a result of the Initiative, they must explain the reasons for their choice.

To inform their response they will have met with the organisers to better understand the issues raised in their initiative and are now holding this hearing where MEPs will be able to question those supporting the petition, the Commission and invited experts.

There is considerable concern among the scientific community that the Directive should not be repealed.

At present the use of animals remains the only way for some areas of research to progress. The Society believes that where this research offers considerable benefits, it should go ahead under rigorous review to ensure it is absolutely necessary and there are no alternatives. At the same time steps must be taken to replace the use of animals, reduce the numbers used and refine procedures so the degree of suffering for animals is kept to the absolute minimum (the 3Rs).  Our funding policy and publishing policy aim to ensure this.

The EU Directive, which came into force in 2010, puts in place requirements that ensure this approach is taken across Europe. This has introduced the principles of the 3Rs across Europe and in many countries has enhanced welfare standards.

However many recently elected MEPs are new to these issues, not having been in the Parliament during the development of the Directive, so this hearing may be one of their first opportunities to discuss the use of animals in research.

The Society has supported a joint statement calling for the Initiative to be opposed by the European Parliament and the Commission, stating that repealing the Directive would represent a major step backwards both for animal welfare in the EU and for Europe’s leading role in advancing human animal health.