This week the European Commission published their response to the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) ‘Stop Vivisection’. The success of this initiative reaching the required one million signatures has made it clear that animal testing remains a great concern for the EU citizens which must be addressed.

It is disappointing to see that the Commission’s response doesn’t propose  funding  for alternatives under programmes like Horizon 2020 even though Article 47 of the Directive 2010//63/EU  requires that they shall contribute to the development and validation of alternative approaches.  At the recent European Parliament Hearing on the ECI, there was a clear call for and support of funding and resources for alternatives from the organisers of the ECI, the Parliamentarians, the animal user community and from those opposed to the use of animals. Notably, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the 2008 Nobel Laureate of Medicine for Physiology, argued that the Commission should support research into alternative methods.

On the positive side, it is planned that the Commission will host a conference to  debate the advances in science for the development of scientifically valid non-animal approaches with the goal of phasing out animal testing.

There will be no improvement to animal welfare without proper and full implementation of the Directive 2010//63/EU. It is the responsibility of all players to share experiences and expertise on the requirements laid out in the Directive and disseminate these in best practice.

The review of the Directive which is due to take place in 2017 is of paramount importance. It will be necessary that the European Commission involves all stakeholders in the review process and fosters a constructive dialogue.

An EU strategy is necessary to promote innovation and uptake of more humane state-of-the-art methods.  This should also contribute to a paradigm shift to stop relying on the use of animals as the golden rule and recognise that advancing medical progress, research and innovation is possible with methods which do not rely on animals.

For now, Directive 2010/63/EU remains the legislation governing the use of animals for scientific purposes in Europe. Together we need work toward it being implemented and enforced to its fullest such that it promotes improved animal welfare, faster and increased development and uptake of 3Rs, and improved quality of science.




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