Tuesday, 5 May 2009 12:00 AM
Today's (May 5th) European Parliament vote  on animal experiments law has been cautiously welcomed by the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research  as a "partial victory for humane science offering a glimmer of hope for animals in laboratories." However the charity said MEPs had "failed to defend the defenceless against some of the least justifiable excesses of experimentation."
MEPs in Strasbourg were voting on proposals to update 20-year old EU law on animal experiments (Directive 86/609) . The European Commission published proposed improvements to the law back in November 2008  but sustained lobbying by the animal research industry has had a devastating impact and resulted today in MEPs voting to allow re-use of animals in successive experiments, scientific freedom to experiment on many animals without rigorous ethical scrutiny, freedom to use primates in experiments with no direct application to improving human health and rejection of plans to phase-out use of 'F1 primates' (off-spring of wild-caught parents).
However they did vote to set an upper limit on levels of pain animals can endure and to increase EU efforts on developing non-animal alternatives. The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, the UK's leading non-animal medical research charity, says:
"Today's vote has been a partial victory for humane science offering a glimmer of hope for animals in laboratories but it doesn't go far enough." says Emily McIvor, Policy Director at the Dr Hadwen Trust. "We welcome support for new EU and national centres for alternatives research as they will bring us closer to a future where computer mice replace lab mice and where test tubes replace test subjects. But whilst animal experiments continue, this was Europe's chance to make the law respectable and forward thinking which MEPs failed to do today. A law that makes no explicit plan to phase-out lethal experiments on even our closest genetic cousins, primates, is a law not fit for the 21st century."
How MEPs voted on Directive 86/609:
- No to strict limits on re-use of animals in successive experiments
- No to restricting experiments on monkeys to avoid their use in non-essential experiments not involving life-threatening or debilitating human conditions
- No to a planned and time-tabled phase-out of monkey use over time or a phase out of F1 generation monkeys (offspring of wild-caught parents)
- No to mandatory central authorisation and ethical & scientific evaluation of all animal experiments before an animal-use license is granted (authorisation and ethical review at institution-level accepted for many experiments)
- No to retrospective evaluation
- Yes to setting an upper limit of pain an animal can be subjected to
- Yes to creation of new EU & member state facilities to develop alternatives
- Yes to extending the scope of the law to include protection for some but not all invertebrate and foetal animals currently used in labs but not covered by the law.
- Yes to extending the scope of the law to include basic medical research on animals, meaning all EU animal experiments would be regulated by law.
- A ban on use of great apes (unless in exceptional and unforeseen circumstances) - the Commission's position was also retained
The Dr Hadwen Trust cautiously welcomes MEP support for the creation of new EU and member state facilities to develop more alternatives to animal experiments. Current EU-level efforts to develop non-animal methods are narrowly focused on regulatory toxicity which only accounts for about 10% of EU experiments. Most animals in EU laboratories are used in basic medical research where far less effort has been focused despite enormous scientific potential. Increasing funding and co-ordination to bridge this gap in non-animal replacement research is immensely important.
The Dr Hadwen Trust funds a medical research programme at British universities to develop new non-animal techniques such as 3-D models of disease, advanced human brain imaging equipment and computer modelling. The charity is leading the campaign to update Directive 86/609 and recently launched a Europe-wide virtual march to Brussels with more than 17,000 people marching in support in little over one week - www.makeanimaltestinghistory.org 
More than 12 million animals are used in EU labs each year.  The proposals will next we voted on by the Council of Ministers later in the year, before being sent back to the EU Parliament again in a process expected to stretch into 2010.
1. All MEPs voted today (May 5th), European Parliament, Strasbourg.
2. The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research is the UK's leading non-animal medical research charity. www.drhadwentrust.org
3. Council Directive 86/609/EEC of 24 November 1986 on the approximation of laws and administrative provisions of the Member States regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes.
3. European Commission proposal can be read here http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52008PC0543:EN:NOT
5. The Make Animal Testing History virtual march was launched by the Dr Hadwen Trust, Four Paws and Humane Society International http://www.makeanimaltestinghistory.org/the-march.php?lang=gb&ref
6. 12.1 million animals were used in EU experiments in 2005; Fifth Report on the Statistics on the Number of Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes in the Member States of the European Union published 5/11/2007 (these are the most recent EU wide statistics available).