The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is deeply concerned over yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament, which threatens the future of effective biomedical research in Europe.
Despite Parliament recognising the important role that animal research has played in the development of drugs and treatments for both humans and animals, including research into Covid-19, the vote’s inclusion (on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education) of an action plan, with reduction targets and timelines, jeopardises many of the ongoing studies into the diseases that affect millions of people in Europe, such as Covid-19, cancer and brain disease.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “Without animal research we would not have been able to develop and roll-out, at historically unprecedented speed, effective vaccines that have halted the progression of the Covid-19 pandemic. The development of new drugs and surgical techniques will also be severely impeded without continued animal research, with some branches of medical research coming to a complete stop.
“The European Commission’s Beating Cancer Plan identifies 3.5 million EU citizens who are diagnosed every year with cancer. It would be immoral for the research community to reject the use of animal research without proven alternatives in this struggle to beat cancer.”
“MEPs are being beguiled by activist groups into believing that non-animal methods of biomedical research can be universally applied to provide the safety, efficacy and insights that are currently gained from animal models. The reality is that the usefulness of some non-animal methods is limited and do not serve as suitable alternatives for huge areas of research and development.
“EARA congratulates the Parliament for rejecting the politically driven calls to set artificial target dates to end animal research, but we question the need for any additional action plans to accelerate the development of animal-free methods, as this is already enshrined in EU Directive 2010/63 on the use of animals for scientific purposes.
“There is no need for a further level of bureaucracy, including taskforces, reduction targets and action plans, as Directive 2010/63 already has a clear plan to introduce non-animal methods of research that can be as effective, when they are available,” said Kirk Leech.
He added: “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.”
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It has 117 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 21 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.
All organisations are 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.
Dogs are currently being used to develop treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating muscle wasting disease that has no cure and ultimately leads to early death.
Like humans, non-human primates (NHPs) have a prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain involved in cognitive behaviour. This means that NHPs can help scientists understand how the brain works and help us develop treatments for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and OCD.