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expert reaction to the European Commission’s response to the Stop Vivisection Initiative

The European Commission has rejected the Stop Vivisection Initiative that sought to repeal a directive on the protection of animals, which would have a led to a European-wide ban on animal research.

 

Prof Tim Morris, Visiting Professor, Laboratory Animal Welfare and Science, University of Nottingham, said:

“The rejection of the Stop Vivisection Initiative, which sought to repeal European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and ban all animal research in the EU, is unsurprising as there is a sound scientific base to such research. However, it is also sad that it reached this point because such adversarial approaches inhibit progress.

“The result is unsurprising because it is inconceivable that none of the studies or observations on animals can tell us important things about animals or people.

“It is sad that oversimplified misinformation can be used to obscure the complex truth that we can improve science and animal welfare by incrementally replacing animal use, reducing the numbers used, and refining the way animals are used. To do this we need dialogue, openness and even constructive criticism, not over-simplistic campaigning that forces people to defensively take sides.”

 

Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive, Society of Biology said:

“We welcome the European Commission’s decision not to repeal the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The Directive was implemented in 2013 following years of careful and broad consultation to design a legislative system that would raise and harmonise welfare standards.

“The Society of Biology supports the clarification by the EU Commission that animal models have made a significant contribution to the development of major complex medical advances.

“The Directive mandates the application of 3Rs wherever possible and ensures a high level of protection of animals. We would welcome stronger signals from the Commission that a well-funded Horizon 2020 will include resource to advance the important challenge of developing and validating refinements and alternatives.”

 

Prof Jan Schnupp, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford, said:

Throughout the EU member states, academic and professional institutions already perform animal experiments only if these experiments have passed tight scrutiny by independent ethics boards. Once a properly constituted ethics board has determined that the likely benefits of a particular set of experiments outweigh their cost, trying to oppose or disrupt or ban such experiments becomes certifiably unethical. Supporting anti-vivisection organizations has thus become something that one ought to be ashamed of. Thankfully the EC has recognized this, and their rejection of the “Stop Vivisection Initiative” was inevitable.

“Animal welfare in research settings has made such great strides that the arguments of anti-vivisection groups have become largely baseless. Hopefully we can start to put their propaganda behind us and celebrate and honour the high ethical standards and the enormous scientific achievements of the biomedical research community.”

 

Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research, said:

“I am delighted that the European Commission has issued such a robust response to this petition.  Its report reminds us that most of the medical and veterinary treatments we take for granted ‘would have been impossible without the insights gained in animal studies’, while recognising that the EU bioscience sector is committed to working to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research wherever possible.  Repealing the Directive and banning animal research in the EU would have had huge negative consequences for patients, and for animal welfare.”

 

Nancy Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, Wellcome Trust said: 

“We welcome the European Commission’s show of confidence in Directive 2010/63/EU, recognising the crucial role that the carefully regulated use of animals in research has in improving human and animal health and advancing modern medicine.

“We fully support any future plans by the Commission to strengthen the implementation of the Directive, particularly the development and adoption of alternatives, and the enforcement of the ‘3Rs’ principle of refinement, reduction and replacement.

“Continuing open discussions about animal research is extremely important, and we are also encouraged that the Commission is organising a conference to engage the scientific community and relevant stakeholders about these issues.”

 

Kirk Leech, Executive Director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), said:

“We recognise the importance that this topic has for citizens as was conveyed during the public hearing of the Stop Vivisection in the European Parliament. We share the petitioners’ concerns for greater transparency and openness and will work to proactively engage with European Citizens on why and how animals are used in scientific research.”

 

Dr Paul Browne, Research Editor, Speaking of Research, said:

“We welcome the decision by the European Commission to reject the Stop Vivisection Initiative. EU Directive 2010/63 which governs animal experiments has been a step forward for both animal welfare and better science. They put the 3Rs – Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of animals in research – at the heart of the rules governing animal experiments.

“Animal research continues to play a key part in medical advances. Only last week we learned about a new lung cancer therapy that performed very well in clinical trials, allowing patients with the disease to live longer; this treatment was only possible thanks to studies in transgenic mice.”

 

Declared interests

Prof. Jan Schnupp: Conflict of interest statement: I am an academic scientist. I use animals in some of my experiments. I am proud of what I do.

Prof. Tim Morris, Dr Mark Downs, Wendy Jarrett: Had no interests to declare

Kirk Leech: “I would like to declare that EARA is a membership organisation, and hence we protect the interest of our members. EARA members are research institutions, companies and organisations for which a role back to Directive 2010/63 would have had major implications in their activities.”

Paul Browne, Nancy Lee: No interests received

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