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European Union: Stricter Rules on Animal Testing

(Nov. 14, 2008) For the past eight years, the European Commission has been working on a highly controversial proposal regarding animal testing. The proposal attempts to balance animal rights with the rights of scientists to use animals for experimental purposes. Within the European Union, approximately 12 million animals are used for experiments each year. Most of them are mice and rats; only 0.1 percent are monkeys. Great apes are no longer used in Europe for animal testing purposes, and the proposal would completely ban the practice. Environmental Commissioner Stavros Demas stated that it is important to ban animal testing at the EU level, that scientific research must explore other methods for experiments, and that even the restricted use of animals would be permitted only if no other alternatives are possible. Animal rights groups endorsed the proposal in principle, but affirmed their commitment to continue lobbying the Commission to expand the rules on sentient invertebrates and animal fetuses and to prohibit any test that will cause “severe or prolonged pain.”

The proposal prohibits experiments on chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. An exception is provided if tests are absolutely essential to fight a life-threatening situation of epidemic proportions. The proposal also restricts the use of other primates, including macaques and marmosets, and of all animals that are “likely to experience pain.” Other provisions are designed to improve the living conditions of animals used for testing and to establish a system of review by a competent authority of ethical standards applicable to all new projects. (EU Animal Testing Bill Worries Scientists, EU OBSERVER, Nov. 6, 2008, available at