Facing the facts of animals used for scientific purposes

26 May 2021
Today the Intergroup spoke about the shortcomings in the implementation and enforcement of Directive (2010/63/EU) on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

Dr Katy Taylor and Kerry Postlewhite from Cruelty Free Europe presented the Intergroup with a harrowing video unveiling the callous and cruel practices that took place in a laboratory in the European Union. Discussion around this topic gained steam after a whistleblower at Vivotecnia research organisation in Madrid recorded undercover footage between 2018 and 2020. This footage was subsequently published on the Cruelty Free International website causing public outrage. 

Today the Intergroup was displayed with a plethora of evidence of animals being mistreated. Despite these laboratories claiming that animal welfare is at the forefront of their minds, it is frequently the opposite that is happening behind closed doors. This is the 6th undercover investigation in the span of 11 years uncovering cruel practices in European laboratories. Cruelty Free Europe is calling on European decision makers to end drug and chemical testing on animals and to close down these laboratories. MEP Anja Hazekamp (The Left, NL) shared that the footage was “heart breaking and difficult to watch”.

Susanna Louhimies, Policy Officer, DG Environment, European Commission condemned the actions in Vivotecnia, however noted that the Spanish authorities were quick to react and are currently in discussions with the Commission to continue the investigation. Giving further input on what the Commission can do to lead to the ultimate goal of replacing and reducing animals in laboratories, Susanna Louhimies spoke about a number of steps including transparency, education and training, and more focus on culture of care. However MEP Tilly Metz (Greens/EFA LU) was quick to disagree, saying that education and training is simply not enough. She went on, stating that an inquiry committee on the use of animals in science may be needed along with a debate in plenary before the EP summer recess. She also called on MEPs to give their support for a motion for a resolution on this topic. 

MEP Tilly Metz further highlighted the need for more funding for new advanced non-animal models under Horizon Europe and other research and innovation initiatives. The role of the private sector was also mentioned as of utmost importance in establishing a long-term plan to phase out the use of animals.

Eurogroup for Animals’ Programme Leader Dr Luisa Bastos highlighted the need for coordinated plans to reduce and replace the use of animals in science and the importance of setting goals and prioritizing key research areas to promote innovation without the use of animals. Currently, scientific developments are not sustained by a comprehensive policy program to reduce and replace animals. Dr Bastos emphasised the importance of the Intergroup’s work in engaging the relevant stakeholders. There are scientists and companies who want to see changes in this area. Human-based technological advancements provide the potential to overcome the 90% failure rate in drug testing, for example

In conclusion, the implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU still has much room for improvement and it is difficult, even with a legislation that intends to protect animals used in science, to ensure that animals in laboratories are cared for in the best way possible. The Commission’s plans to improve the protection of these animals may not be enough to ensure significant progress in replacing the use of animals in science.  

The Animal Welfare Intergroup will hold its next monthly session on Thursday 1 July  from 12:00-13:00 hrs.  Jérémy Decerle will present his draft report on the implementation of on farm animal welfare related legislation.

Here is the link to the recording of the meeting.