New coalition campaigns to tighten animal testing legislation

By Staff Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Animal testing European union Research

A group of researchers have come together to form a coalition,
which aims to campaign for the revision directives on the
protection of animals used for scientific research.

The group, known as the European Coalition for Biomedical Research (ECBR), brings together 34 societies and associations representing approximately 37,000 academics. They aim to draw attention to the host of Community legislation that covers the protection and welfare of animals. In particular the coalition is to focus on Directive 86/609/EEC, adopted in 1986, which covers the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. Animal experimentation, be it for the development of new chemicals or medicines, for physiological studies, for studying environmental effects or for testing new food additives, has to be carried out in compliance with Directive 86/609. The Directive was designed to improve controls on the use of laboratory animals, set minimum standards for housing and care, as well as the training of personnel involved with laboratory animals. The Directive also aimed to reduce the number of animals used for experiments, and was the basis for the establishment of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). The European Commission told Cordis News: "In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the Directive needs to be revised in order to promote improvements in the welfare of laboratory animals and to further foster the development of alternative methods."​ The Commission thought that a number of the Directive's provisions were open to interpretation, and that the style of some provisions was more political than regulatory in nature. In addition, new techniques such as the use of transgenic animals and cloning have been developed since the Directive was implemented. There was also no mention of ethical review processes, compulsory authorisation of experiments or the 3Rs - Reduction, Refinement and Replacement. The question of pain and distress in animals used for research, teaching and testing has concerned researchers for a long time. The Three Rs thus proposes that all research using animals should be evaluated to see if the Three Rs could be applied. Over the past 40 years the Three Rs have become widely accepted ethical principles to be embedded in the conduct of animal based science. The newly formed ECBR believes that some of the revisions will hinder scientific research. "Whilst there is much that is sensible, there are also some rather dangerous suggestions,"​ said Mark Matfield, Director of the European Biomedical Research Association and Secretary General of the ECBR. Dr Matfield gives the example of a proposal to limit the use of non-human primates in research to those that have been bred for two or more generations in captivity. "There aren't enough of these two-generation captive bred laboratory primates, and it would take years for sufficient numbers to become available,"​ he added. A 2005 statistical report by the European Commission reported that 10.7m animals were used in 2002 in experiments (figures from France referred to 2001). Of these, 0.1 per cent were primates, making the number around 10,700.

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