EARA has welcomed the European Commission response to the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition, Save cruelty-free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing, that has been published today.
The ECI, submitted to the Commission in autumn 2022, had called for a roadmap to phase out all EU animal research, however the Commission has made clear in its communication that it rejects any legislative proposal for phase-out, or the setting of any ‘universal reduction targets’.
The Commission stated that: “Considerable advances have been made in developing (non-animal) alternatives, but animal models remain unavoidable at the moment to understand some more complex biological or physiological processes involved in health, disease and biodiversity.”
This is now the second time in two years, following a similar response to a motion passed by the European Parliament, that the Commission has conclusively answered the demand from NGOs and their supporters to phase out the use of animals in scientific research, beyond where science innovation currently stands.
Despite the claims of the ECI petitioners that animal research is out-dated and ready to be replaced, the response added: “The Commission reiterates that at this stage, it is not possible to predict when scientifically valid methods able to replace particular animal procedures in research will become available.”
Recognising the need for validated alternative scientific methods, the Commission emphasised that it would support ways to expand and accelerate non-animal methods (their development, validation and implementation), where possible.
Additionally, the Commission’s response recognised that any changes to legislation affecting the safety testing of chemicals used in cosmetics and industrial processes must be based on sound science.
For ECI Objective 1 to Protect and strengthen the cosmetics animal testing ban, the Commission said that scientific innovation is ‘not yet considered sufficient to perform safety assessments for human health and the environment without any animal testing due to the lack of accepted alternative methods’.
And on ECI Objective 2 to Transform EU chemicals legislation it said, ‘it is still not possible to replace animal testing for chemical safety assessments for all (eco-)toxicological endpoints. For some endpoints, further research is necessary. For other endpoints, non-animal testing is currently not satisfying fully the regulatory needs, e.g. as regards the quantitative assessments of hazards and risks’.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, thanked the biomedical community for its effective campaign to warn about the implications of the ECI and said: “While the siren voices will continue, the European biomedical community appreciates that the Commission has recognised that scientific innovation and patient health will remain priorities in the EU, ahead of the unrealistic aspirations of animal rights groups.”
See also the Commission factsheet on the ECI