Despite the progress made in developing alternative methods, the use of animals in research is still needed. Human and animal health very much depend on it. It is important, therefore, to abide by a regulatory framework with high standards of animal welfare protection to ensure that human and animal health, as well as animal welfare are safeguarded. That is what the European Union did in 2010, by adopting one of the world´s most advanced instruments with regard to animal welfare standards: Directive 2010/63/EU.
The ECI, the European citizens’ initiative allows one million EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal. represents an essential step forward in raising the animal welfare standards in Europe. Animals may be used in research only where no viable alternative method is available, and when used, the replacement, reducement and refinement of the use of animals (the so-called principle of the “3Rs”) should guide their use. Although still at an early stage of its implementation, this Directive is an important development towards the right direction.
The ECI not only wants to cancel the Directive but also seeks to fully ban animal research. The annulment of the Directive would lamentably put Europe back to the situation before 2010, when lower standards for animal welfare existed. The ban on animal research would simply put Europe off its game with regard to biomedical research. Researchers would then be forced to find new places to undertake their research (countries or regions that, almost certainly, will have lower animal welfare standards that those existing now in Europe).
The end result would be disastrous for Europe: the progress made in the past few years would be wiped out and Europe would find itself worse off than before the adoption of the Directive. As LERU´s Secretary-General, Prof Kurt Deketelaere, states: “The consequences for human and animal health and high-quality research, if this ECI were to go ahead, are simply devastating”.