Commission consults public and experts on the welfare of laboratory animals -- comments till 18 August

June 20, 2006

Brussels, 16 June 2006

The European Commission has today launched a 9-week long internet consultation of citizens and experts to hear their views on how to increase the welfare of animals used in experiments. The existing legislation needs to be updated to further improve the welfare of experimental animals and to ensure a level playing field for those carrying out animal experiments. The Commission therefore intends to make a proposal for a revision of this legislation and wants to take the opinions of the public into consideration.

The consultation consists of two questionnaires: One is addressed to the wider public and is available in all 20 official EU languages. The second is addressed to experts and is in English only, but allows very detailed comments.

The Commission welcomes contributions from all interested citizens as well as experts in animal welfare, animal testing, animal science, natural sciences (especially biology, medicine, pharmacology and toxicology), and legal and economic affairs related to these areas.

Examples of questions to the general public include:

Do you think more should be done to improve the welfare of animals used in experiments?

Should there be more transparency and public participation in determining when and how animals are used in experiments?

Is current animal welfare legislation on animal experimentation hindering European competitiveness?

Should the EU play an international leadership role in promoting an improved welfare of animals used in experiments?

The aim of this consultation is twofold, namely to provide the Commission with views of the public on the use of animals in experiments and ways to improve their welfare, and to allow experts to comment on the preliminary findings of an impact assessment on the options for the revision of the existing legislation.
The introduction to the consultation and both questionnaires are available at the following address:

http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/consultations/index_en.htm

This consultation will be open until 18 August.

The views of the public and of experts matter

The replies to this consultation will help the Commission in its considerations regarding the revision of the Directive on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes ( 86/609/EEC ). Currently the Commission is planning to make a proposal in early 2007. It will then be up to the European Parliament and the Council to discuss, amend and adopt it (co-decision procedure).

The Directive on the protection of experimental animals

Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes is the main piece of EU legislation to protect animals used in experiments and to avoid distortions of the internal market in this field.

The Directive seeks to control the use of laboratory animals, e.g. by requiring that establishments carrying out animal experiments are licensed and by ensuring the appropriate use of anaesthesia, in order to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering of the animals. It establishes guidelines for housing and care as well as for the training of personnel handling animals and supervising the experiments. It also aims to reduce the numbers of animals used for experiments by requiring that animal experiments should not be performed if alternative methods exist, and by encouraging the development and validation of alternative methods to replace animal testing.

The Directive was adopted in 1986 and has not been significantly changed since. However, since 1999 the EU Treaty has formally recognised the welfare requirements of animals. The protocol on the protection and welfare of animals, annexed to the Treaty, provides that

"In formulating and implementing the Community's agriculture, transport, internal market and research policies, the Community and the Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage."

In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the Directive needs to be revised. In its current form, it is open to interpretation and does not mirror important scientific progress over the last two decades. New techniques have become available, such as use of transgenic animals (e.g. animals produced with externally introduced genes), xeno-transplantation (transplantation of tissue, organs or cells from one species into another) and cloning. These techniques require specific attention, which the current Directive does not provide for. Nor is the use of animals with a higher degree of neurophysiologic sensitivity, such as non-human primates, specifically regulated.

The overall aim of the revision is to achieve harmonised, controlled use of animals in scientific procedures with a high degree of welfare of the animals and transparent practices across all 25 Member States. The Directive should ensure a level playing field for institutes and other establishments in the EU that carry out procedures on animals. In that, it will take into account animal welfare considerations on the one hand and the EU’s desire to stay on the leading edge of research on the other. It will reflect relevant developments since the adoption of the Directive in 1986, including the Protocol to the Treaty referred to above, as well as ethical and other relevant concerns.
Information about the impact assessment on the options for the revision of the Directive and more information about the Directive are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/lab_animals/home_en.htm
If you want to participate in the consultation, go to:

http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/consultations/index_en.htm

Item source: IP/06/798 Date: 19/06/2006

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