There is a new effort to ban animal research in Europe. The Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative, and its 1.2 million signatures, has been submitted to the European Commission and the organisers have now been invited to discuss their petition.
The initiative calls for:
“the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”.
The organisers will have the opportunity to present their ideas at a public hearing held by the European Parliament. The Commission now has three months (from March 3rd) to decide how to respond and explain their reasoning.
Stop Vivisection is the third initiative to be successful under the citizens’ initiative programme, where EU citizens are able to propose and amend legislation to the European Commission. First introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the citizens’ initiative programme attempts to make EU-law making more accessible and democratic. Each initiative must gain one million signatures across from at least seven member states, these signatures are then checked and validated by the Commission
Stop Vivisection collected 1,173,130 signatures across 26 of the EU’s 28 member states. The majority of these signatures come from Italy – where anti-animal research sentiment has been running high -, and five out of the seven members of ‘citizens’ committee’ are Italian. This comes as no surprise as the anti-science movement continues to grow in Italy, with the government recently restricting the use of animals in research; forcing scientists to change the focus of their research or pursue their research elsewhere.
Among the misleading claims made by Stop Vivisection, the initiative argues that the Directive facilitates greater reliance on animal research. When, in fact, the Directive specifically requires that animal models are only used in research if no alternative is available. Regulation 12 of the Directive notes:
“The use of animals for scientific or educational purposes should therefore only be considered where a non-animal alternative is unavailable”
At the heart of the directive is the 3Rs—researchers must replace animals with alternative techniques when available, reduce the number of animals required in research, and refine procedures to minimise suffering.
The initiative calls for the replacement of “animal testing’ with “more accurate, reliable, human-relevant methods” ignoring the scientific consensus that although humans and animals may look different, they are remarkably similar at a physiological and anatomical level. As numerous researchers have pointed out, crucial research–both past and present–would not be possible without animal research. Over the last 40 years, every Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine bar one has depended on work using animals.
In response to the initiative, over 120 organisations—including notable learned societies, patient groups and leading universities— have signed a joint statement supporting European Directive 2010/63/EU. The statement calls on the European Parliament to oppose the ‘Stop Vivisection’ initiative as repealing the Directive will damage Europe’s leading role in advancing medical progress, which human and animals hugely benefit from.
EARA calls on all organisations who want to defend science and protect medical progress to sign the statement. Organisations that wish to support the statement can add their logos by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s important to remember that although the petition passed the one million threshold, it still only represents less than a quarter of one percent of the EU’s population. It’s therefore vital the scientific community remains open about animal research and opposes initiatives such as these to protect both human and animal welfare.