Brussels, 25 Jan 2006
The European Commission has adopted an action plan on improving animal welfare, which includes a section on promoting alternative approaches to animal testing.
EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: 'The protection and welfare of animals is crucial, not least for ethical and moral reasons, but also to ensure animal health and the quality of food. The Commission has drawn on detailed feedback from consumers, stakeholders, scientists and international organisations in developing this Action Plan, and over the next five years we intend to add to and upgrade existing animal welfare rules, so that EU standards remain amongst the highest in the world.'
The action plan was called for by the European Parliament and Council, and is intended to clarify existing EU legislation on animal welfare while putting forward proposals for areas where action is currently lacking.
In terms of animal testing, the document focuses on the implementation of an agreement on the 3Rs - replacement, reduction and refinement - agreed by the Commission and industry in November 2005. A first progress report on this partnership between all stakeholders will be published at the end of 2006.
Millions of animals are currently used for research and testing, including tests on foods and medicines. Provisions are made for the protection of animals used in experiments in EU Directive 86/609/EEC , but updated scientific information and increasing public concern on this issue have highlighted the need for a more proactive approach in this area. The Commission is therefore currently working on a revision of this Directive in order to ensure that animals used in experimentation receive appropriate care and humane treatment.
Furthermore, in 1999, the EU became party to the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of vertebrate animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes, which is also preparing recommendations on this issue.
The other four areas addressed by the Action Plan are: upgrading minimum standards for animal welfare; introducing standardised animal welfare indicators; better informing animal handlers and the general public on animal welfare issues; and supporting international initiatives for the protection of animals. The action plan sets out a timetable for action.
In a statement, the Commission pledges that 'Future animal welfare policies will continue to be founded on the best available scientific advice, taking into account public expectations, socio-economic consequences and trade concerns.'