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© Understanding Animal Research/Wellcome Images.

Last week the European Commission confirmed that research using animals should continue in Europe where necessary, however it stated its ambition that in the long-term animal research should be phased out and announced initiatives to bring this goal closer.

The Commission was considering this issue as a result of the ‘Stop Vivisection’ European Citizen’s Initiative that called for the EU Directive governing animal research to be repealed and a ban on animal research across Europe.

The EU Directive, which came in to force in 2010, was developed in consultation with animal welfare groups, scientists and animal technologists. It enables research using animals to be undertaken where necessary and has enhanced animal welfare standards, introducing the 3Rs principles – refinement, replacement and reduction – across the EU.

Following a hearing in the European Parliament on 11 May, the Commission has responded outlining what it plans to do next:

  • Accelerate progress in the 3Rs – The Commission will examine what organisations across Europe are doing to advance the 3Rs and, by the end of 2016, it will present a range of options for improving and accelerating the sharing of knowledge and best practice.
  • Enforce compliance with the 3Rs – The Commission will actively monitor compliance with the Directive, in particular the 3Rs principles. This will include ensuring member states implement the Directive correctly.
  • Develop alternative approaches – The Commission will continue to support the development, validation and implementation of alternative approaches to animal research, including through EU funding programmes.
  • Engage with the scientific community – By the end of 2016, the Commission will organise a conference with the scientific community to debate how to accelerate the development of alternative approaches and reduce the use of animals in research.

In addition, in 2019, the Commission will publish a report examining the extent to which the Directive has achieved its objectives.

Ahead of the hearing in Parliament, the Society 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 and animal health (you can read more about the Society’s position on the use of animals in research). The Society welcomes the Commission’s decision not to repeal the EU Directive and we continue to strongly support action on the 3Rs.