PM+: EU animal testing standards lead the world
Responsibility and welfare on animal testing go hand in hand, argues Françoise Grossetête.
Animal testing and the safeguarding of animals during the research process are emotive subjects. Health is high on my policy agenda so I consider the responsible use of animals in research of paramount importance.
My commitment to animal welfare has been constant and unwavering. I believe that animal welfare is of primary importance, and a key concern for Europe's citizens, which is why I also signed the Eurogroup for Animals pledge during the 2014 European elections.
I am now the European parliament's rapporteur on the review of the veterinary medicines regulation, and one of the objectives will be to improve animal welfare through the better availability of medicines.
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The European Union is already a leader at international level in this field and in the promotion of high standards of animal welfare protection.
The 2010 revision of the EU directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes has been a terrific step forward, providing Europe with one of the world's most restrictive regulatory framework for animal testing.
I am proud to have been a part of this forward-looking piece of legislation as it has simultaneously harmonised and raised the level of animal welfare standards across Europe, while ensuring that we remain a leading player in biomedical research.
One of the major achievements of the directive was the introduction of mandatory ethical evaluation before research projects involving animals are allowed to be carried out.
This is a key tool in ensuring that animal use in research is proportionate and responsible and used when no alternative exists.
Furthermore, the requirement for researchers to consider the so called three Rs of replace, reduce and refine when using animals in research are also important achievements.
I believe that the three Rs are indispensable in ensuring animal welfare and that they set the necessary barriers to appropriately regulate animal testing – when and where it cannot be avoided.
I think those principles actually form the backbone of our regulatory framework on the use of animals for scientific purposes.
They guarantee that animals are only involved in tests when it is absolutely necessary and when there is no alternative; that those animals do not suffer or the least possible; and that only the necessary amount needed for experiments are used.
The protection of animals used for scientific purposes directive also has staying power as it provides for its own review, in 2017, so we can ensure that it will keep pace with scientific and technological advances.
Were it to be abolished, we would have to go back to the previous situation, which was much worse in terms of animal protection.
In fact, a complete ban on animal testing would have tremendous negative consequences for the development of new medicines and for patients' access to them as there are cases when the use of animals simply cannot be avoided.
All major medical breakthroughs over the last century have been directly or indirectly dependent on scientific research involving animals.
We should not be naive; I prefer to see animals used for research here in Europe, under the umbrella of the three Rs and ethical evaluations, rather than in other countries where even the most basic standards of animal welfare are ignored.
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