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European Union: Revision of Old Rules on Animal Scientific Experimentation

(Sept. 13, 2010) On September 8, 2010, the European Parliament, after lengthy negotiations, supported the adoption of revised rules on the use of animals for scientific experiments proposed by the EU Commission. The European Union institutions (the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council of the EU) have been in the process of revising the 25-year-old directive regulating the use of animals in laboratory research since November 2008; however, negotiations have been slow and difficult. Within the EU, approximately 12 million animals are used annually for experiments. Even though animal welfare standards in Europe are among the highest in the world, a number of groups devoted to animal rights are campaigning for an end to all research on animals. (EU Wants Fewer Animals Used in Research, EURACTIV (Sept. 9, 2010),

The objective of the new rules, which will enter into force in 2012, is to improve the welfare of animals without at the same time inhibiting scientific research. The draft directive prohibits the use of great apes, such as chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas, in experiments.

The following provisions of the initial proposal of the EU Commission were not endorsed by the European Parliament:

1) a ban on the use of other primates, such as ouistitis (New World monkeys) and macaques. The Parliament did not endorse this provision, because it would have hampered research in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's; and

2) a restriction stating that reuse of animals in experiments can only occur if a test is painless or if it involves only minor discomfort. The Parliament rejected this provision as well, because it was viewed as being too strict and as potentially resulting in a higher number of animals being used for testing. (Id.)

The research-dependent pharmaceutical industry would have two years to comply with the proposed directive. Industry members, together with most of the political groups in the Parliament, expressed their support for the proposed directive. On the other hand, animal rights organizations and the Greens in the Parliament were unhappy with the proposal, because it does not call for a complete ban on animal testing. (Id.)