For immediate release 01/03/2022: For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday firstname.lastname@example.org on +44 (0)20 3355 3095 or +44 (0)77 1552 5535
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has welcomed the EU Commission’s recognition of the continuing vital importance of animal research in the wake of the recent vote by the European Parliament to hasten its phase-out.
In the Commission’s statement, just published, it defended the success of the current framework of legislation (Directive 2010/63) for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, recognised the role that animal studies play in developing safe and effective drugs and treatment for the benefit of society and rejected the need for any additional bureaucratic structures.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “Activist groups, and certain MEPs, may want to give the impression that animal research is ‘out-dated science’, however the successful development of CRISPR and Covid-19 vaccines has shown that state-of-the-art science understands the value of animal data and the innovative solutions it provides to the challenges we face in the future.”
More importantly, it was good to see that the Commission acknowledged that despite biomedical advances, alternative methods still have very limited uses currently and that it is still ‘not possible to predict when scientifically valid methods will become available that can replace particular animal procedures’.
Without animal studies, the development of new drugs and surgical techniques would be severely impeded, with some branches of medical research coming to a complete stop. The European Commission ‘Beating Cancer Plan’ identifies 3.5 million EU citizens who are diagnosed every year with cancer. It would therefore be immoral for the research community to reject the use of animal research without proven alternatives in the struggle to beat cancer.
In line with this, EARA was pleased to see that the Commission supports the continuation of REACH legislation, alongside the new Chemicals Strategy and One Health approach. The Commission added that ‘a separate reduction and replacement strategy going beyond the REACH provisions would not be compatible with that goal’.
Kirk Leech said: “If we are to maintain Europe’s leading global role in research and development, and continue to create an environment attractive for life science investment, including the hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with scientific research and medical advancement, it would be perverse to shut the door to those who see animal research as being essential to the discovery of causes, diagnoses, and treatment of disease and suffering in humans and in animals.”
EARA, and the wider scientific community, are committed to working within the long-term strategy of Directive 2010/63, abiding by the ethical review processes and welfare regulations necessary for the use of animals.
Nevertheless, in the light of the Parliamentary vote, it is right that the Commission has agreed to look again at ways of ‘focusing on and intensifying current efforts’ to reach the ultimate goal of full replacement.
The Commission’s proposal to strengthen the existing interservice steering group of the European Partnership on Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) by involving experts from the European Chemical Agency and the European Food Safety Agency, should provide stronger guidance on the realistic changes that can be made to reduce animal numbers, while still complying with safety measures that protect humans, animals and the environment.
“The proposal to expand the role of the EPAA is to be welcomed, as it will potentially ensure that the most up-to-date scientific knowledge is available to find safe and effective non-animal methodologies,” added Kirk Leech.
The Commission also noted that there is a place for improving communication and transparency, by involving Member States further, as well as through initiatives such as the ALURES statistical database on animal use and the database containing non-technical project summaries of authorised projects. These initiatives have the full support and collaboration of EARA and the biomedical sector.
For its part, EARA will continue to support the drive towards greater openness and transparency on animal research by its 133 member organisations and through its communications programme to the biomedical sector, including workshops, events and guidance on website content.
Notes to editors
See also the Federation of European Biomedical Societies blog.
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information on the benefits this provides to society. It has 133 member organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 24 European countries.
Notes to editors
Animal research is strictly regulated under the EU Directive 2010/63. Every procedure, from a simple blood test to major surgery, requires individual, establishment and project licences, as well as approval from animal welfare and ethical review bodies.
The European biomedical sector is committed to the ‘3Rs’ of replacement, reduction and refinement. This means avoiding or replacing the use of animals where possible; minimising the number of animals used per experiment and optimising the experience of the animals to improve animal welfare. However, as institutions expand and conduct more research, the total number of animals used can rise even if fewer animals are used per study.
Since 2013, it has been illegal to sell or import cosmetics anywhere in the EU where the finished product, or its ingredients, have been tested on animals.