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Parliament row brews over animal experiments and new EU Directive

An opportunity to increase animal protection and public accountability

As the UK Government considers how it will bring the new EU Directive, 2010/63/EU, into UK law, MPs and animal protection and non-animal research groups have expressed concern about the lowering of UK science and animal welfare standards.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research (LDF) briefed MPs on the key concerns over the potential effects of the new Directive on UK animal research and advanced replacements:

-- No current laboratory animal protection in the UK should be downgraded

-- Greater transparency, public accountability, and mechanisms to challenge animal research in favour of replacement techniques

-- No reduction in current requirements for the justification of proposed animal experiments

-- Establish mechanisms for the implementation of advanced, non-animal methods

-- 'Thematic' review of areas of animal experimentation to set targets for replacement

-- Restrictions on the use of monkeys in research and ending the wild capture of monkeys.

The briefing can be found here: http://bit.ly/navsbriefing .

In a parliamentary debate yesterday David Amess MP stated that both he and his parliamentary colleagues were concerned about this Directive as the UK prides itself on the way that it treats animals and the UK therefore needs to be convinced that all countries in the EU will have the same high standards.

The Minister Lynne Featherstone responded by stating that the Directive strengthens the protection of animals used in scientific procedures and harmonises the regulation across the Member states while maintaining the UK's high standards. The Minister's statement follows comments previously made by Lord Henley Minister of State at the Home Office, who in October in response to a question in the House of Lords said: "I can give an absolute and categorical assurance that we will not be dropping our standards in any way whatever."

However, despite these assurances to Parliament, the NAVS is concerned that existing UK laboratory animal protection may be stripped away, including the emphasis on replacement methods, when the Government transposes this new Directive.

A recent Government consultation included the option of using the transposition of the new Directive to downgrade current UK standards. This could mean reducing husbandry standards and deregulation of animal experiments. Less justification for animal use would be required. Vested interests from the animal experimentation industry are lobbying hard for relaxation of UK rules.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of the NAVS said: "This could be the first British Government in history to actually make it easier to experiment on animals. The new Directive should be an opportunity to increase animal protection and public accountability, not take us back over 100 years.

"We will continue to lobby the Government to seek the best possible protection for animals, the best mechanisms to bring in the new alternative methods available now, and resist de-regulation of current UK controls."

Animal experiments in the UK are currently governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 but this will be replaced when Directive 2010/63/EU is transposed into British law -- new draft legislation is expected next year. The current Act is generally regarded to have failed to live up to its promise to protect animals in laboratories -- but even the paper thin protection within this may now be removed.

Jan concluded: "The proposals contained within our briefing are reasonable, are clearly in line with public concerns and represent the intention for the new Directive when it was passed by the European Parliament. It is time for the Government to make good its claim that it intends to reduce animal experiments."

ENDS

Animal Defenders International
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London SW1P 4QP, UK.
Tel. +44 (0)20 7630 3340
Fax. +44 (0)20 7828 2179

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