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European Commission proposes overhaul of rules on animal experiments

Long awaited revision of Directive 86/609 includes ban on the use of apes and wild caught monkeys in laboratories but falls short on phase out of primate experiments

Today, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “It is absolutely important to steer away from testing on animals. Scientific research must focus on finding alternative methods to animal testing, but where alternatives are not available the situation of animals still used in experiments must be improved.“

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and Animal Defenders International (ADI) are reviewing the proposals which have been released today, cautiously welcoming some measures whilst concerned that the opportunity for greater protection of laboratory animals and increased use of non-animal methods has not been seized.

A Written Declaration (40/2007) co-originated by ADI and NAVS and MEPs Jens Holm and John Bowis was passed in the European Parliament last year, with the record breaking backing of 433 MEPs.

The Declaration urges the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to use the revision process of Directive 86/609/EC as an opportunity to:
(a) make ending the use of apes and wild-caught monkeys in scientific experiments an urgent priority,
(b) establish a timetable for replacing the use of all primates in scientific experiments with alternatives.

Tim Phillips Campaigns Director of NAVS and ADI: “We are delighted that the Commission is proposing to ban the use of great apes and wild caught monkeys in laboratories in Europe. This is a huge victory for our supporters and our efforts to move Europe towards replacement of outdated primate tests with advanced techniques. Whilst we are disappointed that the Commission has not established a timetable to phase out all primate tests, we are pleased that they will continue to monitor the situation and we hope to persuade them to lay down a clear phase out of these cruel tests.”

The new Directive will require that “…only animals of second or older generations be used, subject to transitional periods, to avoid taking animals from the wild and exhausting wild populations”. Currently as many as a 10% (1,000) of the monkeys used in European laboratories are taken from the wild and still more are FI animals – animals imported to Europe having been born to wild-caught parents.

In the coming months the NAVS and ADI will be stepping up efforts to ensure that the proposals are strengthened in Committee and when they go before the Council of Ministers.

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