In what is being celebrated as a ‘momentous political victory’, the European Parliament has voted to save nearly 10 million animals across the continent from lab testing. With 667 to 4 in favour of the anti-animal testing resolution, the result was overwhelming. This resolution calls on the European Commission to launch an action plan to end all experimenting on animals, who are most commonly ‘used’ in the name of research, testing and education. Instead, it aims to prioritise the shift towards scientific methods that do not involve animals and urges for increased funding for animal-free research.
Animals will no longer be a ‘first resort’ – but it has taken 35 years
The European Union has been gradually taking steps and making changes in the right direction since 2004, when it first introduced anti-testing policies and regulations. In 2013 it prohibited the sale of any cosmetics tested on animals. However almost 70% of animals experimented on, (which range from rats and mice to dogs, cats and monkeys) are tortured and killed in the name of biomedical research. According to statistics, this is an area where there has been next to no reduction – despite a legal requirement being drawn up 35 years ago, which stated animals must not be used where other methods are available. With modern non-animal technologies such as human organ-chips, 3D printing of human living tissues and next-generation computer models now an option, researchers’ reliance on animals as a ‘first resort’ can no longer be justified or allowed to continue.
“While the past decade has seen amazing new developments in alternatives to animal testing, policymakers, regulators and parts of the scientific community are yet to fully recognise the potential of these new methods. The resolution we voted on aims to accelerate the shift in mentalities, regulation and funding,” said Member of the European Parliament, Tilly Metz.
Years of lobbying pays off for PETA
The EU’s decision follows years of lobbying from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who presented its Research Modernisation Deal to MEPs, highlighting that tests on animals do not reliably predict human reactions. According to the Center for Contemporary Services, more than 90 percent of drugs and vaccines that pass animal tests fail during human clinical trials. “There is an urgent scientific need to move away from unreliable animal testing and use more predictive models that are based on human biology,” said Co-founder and CEO of the CCS, Dr. Aysha Akhtar.
Humane Society International Vice President for Research and Toxicology Troy Seidle also commented, “If our goal isn’t to cure cancer in mice or prevent birth defects in rabbits, we need to let go of the unfounded belief that these animals are miniature people and get serious about understanding and predicting human biology in the real world.”
No time to waste
“Hastening the transition to human-focused approaches to testing and health research is in all our interests”, says the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “EU parliamentarians should be applauded for their vision and leadership, and other nations are encouraged to follow suit”
“It is now in the hands of the European Commission to establish this EU-wide Action Plan, and we expect the Commission will make this a high-level priority”, MEP Jytte Guteland said in a statement. “Because if the Commission is serious about its commitments to EU citizens, it needs to start now the dialogue with all parties to effectively coordinate funding, education and milestones to accelerate the transition to non-animal science.”