Wednesday, May 28, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium: World-famous primate expert Jane Goodall and other scientists appealed to European Union officials Wednesday to do more to end the testing of animals for science and medical research.
"We need to recognize at the outset that what we do to animals from their perspective certainly, and probably from ours, is morally wrong and unacceptable," Goodall said. She is probably the world's best-known observer of the behavior of chimpanzees, and a longtime campaigner for animal rights.
She presented a petition bearing 150,000 names to lawmakers at the European Parliament. It called on the lawmakers and the EU's executive office to find methods of testing that do not involve animals.
Goodall joined with animal rights groups to pressure European Union governments to revise EU rules from 1986 by expanding expand a ban on the use of animals in testing and to promote alternative technologies for medical research.
"Where is the big encouragement, where is the political will, where is the funding for this kind of research and where are the prizes?" Goodall asked. "Why is animal-alternative work never recognized in the Nobel Prize for medicine, for example?"
The governments of the European Union's 27 member countries, and industries in those countries, need to meet a 2009 deadline imposed by EU law. The law will ban most cosmetics tested on animals from the European Union.
But it will not entirely ban testing animals in medical research.
However, the European Commission and the cosmetics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries agreed in 2006 to voluntarily reduce and eventually replace animal testing for new medicines and other consumer products within the EU.
Scientist Gill Langley, from the British-based Dr. Hadwen Trust, an advocacy group that opposes animal testing in medical research, said about 12 million animals are used each year in experiments across the EU.
"The leading user countries include France, Britain and Germany," said Langley. "Many of the countries that do those experiments don't keep statistics at all," she said.
Around the world, she said, an estimated 115 million animals are used for medical testing every year. She said the United States was the world's "single largest user" of animals for medical testing.
Langley pointed to studies that found that animal testing was not able to predict the effect of drugs on humans in 50 to 99 percent of cases.
Langley suggested the EU encourage more voluntary testing on humans and better use of computer models to predict the effects of new medicines on human health.
Goodall revolutionized research on primates during the 1960s when she studied them at close range in Tanzania.
She documented tool use, emotions and war in the chimpanzee groups she observed, and her books and TV specials about her work at the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve sparked the world's curiosity about apes.
Those studies have made it clear, she said, that no sharp line can be drawn between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
The primatologist Dr Jane Goodall will today propose that a Nobel prize be set up for advancing medical knowledge without experimentation on animals. The scientist, who pioneered research on chimpanzees in the wild, says moving away from animal research is a "goal towards which all civilised nations should be moving".
She will speak at an event organised by animal rights groups and MEPs to put pressure on the European commission to review directive 86/609, which governs animal research across the EU.
"As we move into the 21st century we need a new mind-set," she said.
"We should admit that the infliction of suffering on beings who are capable of feeling is ethically problematic and that the amazing human brain should set to work to find new ways of testing and experimenting that will not involve the use of live, sentient beings.
"The scientific establishment should actively encourage such research. More funding should be made available for it. And rewards - such as a Nobel prize - should be given for it."
She will also advocate a centre of excellence to develop alternatives to animal research. About 12m animals were used in experiments in 2005. The vast majority were mice and rats.