Despite Europe already having made illegal the use of animals in the cosmetics industry, almost 1.2 million citizens recently petitioned that this is inadequate and called for an outright ban of animal testing. Their voices were considered, but on May 3 the European Commission announced that the appeal has been rejected on grounds that it would hinder crucial biomedical research.
Called “Stop Vivisection,” this European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was submitted to the European Commission on March 3 of this year, calling for a 2010 directive, which promised the funding of research into viable alternative methods, to be ditched and replaced with a plan to end animal testing.
The ECI was introduced back in 2010 as a way to increase democracy in the European Union by providing citizens with the opportunity to call upon the Commission to propose legislation. If one million signatures are collected, the Commission has three months to examine the initiative and issue a formal response outlining the proposed plan. The deadline for the Stop Vivisection ECI was yesterday, and although the Commission agrees that animal research should be gradually phased out, their proposed plans to ultimately reach this goal differ from those suggested in the ECI, according to a statement released by the Commission.
“The ‘Stop Vivisection’ Citizens’ Initiative comes at a time of transition—thanks to major technological advances, Europe is reducing the use of animal testing,” said Vice-President Jyrki Katainen. “However, a complete ban on animal research in the EU would be premature and it would risk chasing out biomedical research from Europe.”
While disappointment has already been expressed by animal rights advocates, such as Eurogroup for Animals, the Commission said that it has taken action in response to the plea that they should speed up research into the use of alternative strategies and their application in scientific research. But Eurogroup for Animals claims this isn’t enough since the majority of proposed funding is going towards toxicology projects, which determines the safe limit of exposure to various chemicals, and these only account for 9% of animal research in Europe.
Contrary to popular belief, scientists don’t actually wish to conduct research on animals. While it is by no means perfect or without moral issues, at the moment alternatives such as cells in a dish or miniaturized organs are not sufficient to replace the use of animals. This message was recently highlighted by 16 Nobel laureates in an open letter to the Commission, which urged the ECI to be opposed.
“For many diseases we need to understand how multiple organs of an organism interact, which means that research using whole animals continues to be essential,” the laureates wrote. “Removal of the Directive would represent a significant step backwards both for animal welfare in the EU and for Europe’s leading role in advancing human and animal health.”