Tag Archives: European Parliament

Stop vivisection Initiative fails to impress at EU hearing

In March we discussed a new attempt by animal rights supporters to ban animal research in Europe, The Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative, which was signed by  1.2 million people (half of them in Italy). The initiative calls for “the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”. On Monday 11th May the organizers of the initiative had an opportunity to present it to a joint session of  several European Parliament committees, in a hearing that was also addressed by scientists who spoke in favor of keeping directive 2010/63/EU.

So how did it go?

Well, an editorial in last week’s edition of Nature gave a fair assessment of it when they described the session as “a pretty grey affair” in which the duo who presented the initiative – Gianni Tamino and Claude Reiss – “spoke calmly but unconvincingly” to a half-filled auditorium. A transcript and summary of the key points made by the European Animal Research Association and put together the key points that were said during the meeting (download here) indicates that the initiative is almost certain to fail in its objective of  persuading the EU Commission to repeal Directive 2010/63/EU.

European-Parliament

A look through the EARA report  shows why. Any MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) hoping to hear new evidence from Dr Ray Greek and Dr Andre Menache, the scientific advisors who the Stop Vivisection Initiative organizers had brought along, were in for a  disappointment, as instead they presented a veritable greatest hits of anti-vivisection claims. Their testimony included Dr Ray Greek’s trademark  misrepresentation of what “prediction” means in biomedical research, while Dr Menache reheated the old 0.0004% myth. Surprisingly, these were far from being the worst claims made by supporters of the Stop vivisection initiative. Particularly low points came when MEP, and initiative supporter,  Anja Hazekamp stated that there has been massive increase in animal testing (The EU’s own statistics show the opposite) and when Claude Reiss, one of the organizers of the Stop Vivisection petition, ventured deep into conspiracy theory territory with a claim that there is a patent on HIV treatment that completely cleans the virus from the body, but has not been developed because it is not profitable.

In contrast the voice of science was very ably represented. Professor Francoise Barré – Sinoussi, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for her role proving that HIV causes AIDS, put forward a very strong case for the importance of animal research in advancing medicine, and repeatedly demolished false claims made by anti-vivisectionists, particularly claims that animal research had not made a useful contribution to HIV research and the development of a vaccine against HIV infection. On this she is on safe ground as there is no doubt that animal research has made very important contributions to HIV research and development of therapies (for examples see here, here and here), and while development of an effective vaccine has been slow – because it’s very, very difficult – there has been real progress in recent years, and most HIV experts is that studies in  non-human primate models of the infection have a critical role to play in evaluating potential vaccination strategies.

Francoise Barré - Sinoussi, undoubted star of the EU parliament hearing.

Francoise Barré – Sinoussi, undoubted star of the EU parliament hearing.

Throughout the hearing one very important voice was conspicuous by its absence, that of the patients who rely on medical research. MEP Françoise Grossetête, who spoke in favor of retaining Directive 2010/63/EU, noted in particular that EURORDIS, the organization that represents rare disease patients in Europe, had not been invited to present evidence at the hearing. We hope that the EU commission will now actively seek the advice of EURORDIS and other European patient organizations before making their final decision.

What happens now?

At the hearing the Vice-President of the European Commission confirmed that the Commission will provide a formal response to the initiative by 3 June 2015. On the basis of what we saw at the hearing, and the fact that the majority of MEPS present were in favor of retaining Directive 2010/63/EU, it is a near certainty that the EU commission will reject the Stop Vivisection initiative and retain the Directive.

In 2017 the Directive will undergo it’s first 5 year review, which is likely to focus on its implementation across the EU, but the commission have also promised to organize a scientific conference that year to discuss the validity of animal research. With that in mind it’s good to see that last week’s Nature editorial noted that scientists across the EU are becoming increasingly – and refreshingly – vocal on the need to support animal research as a pillar of scientific and medical progress. In recent weeks we’ve seen thousands of scientists sign a motion of solidarity with a neuroscientist targeted by animal rights extremists in Germany, more than 140 research organizations, patient organizations, medical research funders and scientific associations sign up to a statement in support of Directive 2010/63/EU, Sixteen European Nobel laureates publish an open letter in UK and German newspapers to rebut the Stop Vivisection campaign. We’ve also seen several excellent letters appear in the national press, including a letter in the Times by Steve Ford, Chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, on the importance of animal research, and articles such as that written by Oxford University Duchenne muscular dystrophy researcher Professor Kay Davies.

The Stop Vivisection Initiative may have almost run its course, but the threat to the future of biomedical science in the EU is sadly never very far away. We hope that the current re-invigoration of the European scientific community continues, and that scientists strengthen and expand their engagement with politicians, journalists and citizens in the run-up to 2017 and beyond.

Speaking of Research

The Stop Vivisection Initiative – Trying to Ban European Animal Research

This guest post by Aamna Mohdin has been simulposted with EARA.

There is a new effort to ban animal research in Europe. The Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative, and its 1.2 million signatures, has been submitted to the European Commission and the organisers have now been invited to discuss their petition. The initiative calls for “the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”. The organisers will have the opportunity to present their ideas at a public hearing held by the European Parliament. The Commission now has three months (from March 3rd) to decide how to respond and explain their reasoning.

Stop Vivisection is the third initiative to be successful under the citizens’ initiative programme, where EU citizens are able to propose and amend legislation to the European Commission. First introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the citizens’ initiative programme attempts to make EU-law making more accessible and democratic. Each initiative must gain one million signatures across from at least seven member states, these signatures are then checked and validated by the Commission.

Stop Vivisection collected 1,173,130 signatures across 26 of the EU’s 28 member states. The majority of these signatures come from Italy – where anti-animal research sentiment has been running high -, and five out of the seven members of ‘citizens’ committee’ are Italian. This comes as no surprise as the anti-science movement continues to grow in Italy, with the government recently restricting the use of animals in research; forcing scientists to change the focus of their research or pursue their research elsewhere.

Antivivisection European Intitiative

These seven countries account for 90% of all the signatures.

Among the misleading claims made by Stop Vivisection, the initiative argues that the Directive facilitates greater reliance on animal research. When, in fact, the Directive specifically requires that animal models are only used in research if no alternative is available. Regulation 12 of the Directive notes:

“The use of animals for scientific or educational purposes should therefore only be considered where a non-animal alternative is unavailable”

At the heart of the directive is the 3Rs—researchers must replace animals with alternative techniques when available, reduce the number of animals required in research, and refine procedures to minimise suffering.

In response to the initiative, over 120 organisations—including notable learned societies, patient groups and leading universities— have signed a joint statement supporting European Directive 2010/63/EU. The statement calls on the European Parliament to oppose the ‘Stop Vivisection’ initiative as repealing the Directive will damage Europe’s leading role in advancing medical progress, which human and animals hugely benefit from.

The statement is as follows:

Statement supporting European Directive 2010/63/EU (“Directive”) on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes

The European Parliament and Commission must oppose the ‘Stop Vivisection’ Citizens’ Initiative that is seeking to repeal the Directive and ban animal research. The Directive is vital to ensure that necessary research involving animals can continue whilst requiring enhanced animal welfare standards.

Summary: The use of animals in research has facilitated major breakthroughs in medicine which have transformed human and animal health. We support research using animals where alternative methods are not available, where the potential benefits to health are compelling, and where acceptable ethical and welfare standards can be met. The Directive has enhanced animal welfare standards and introduced the concepts of refinement, replacement and reduction (‘3Rs’) across the EU, while ensuring Europe remains a world leader in biomedical research. The ‘Stop Vivisection’ Citizens’ Initiative must be opposed by the European Parliament and the Commission – repealing the Directive would represent a major step backwards both for animal welfare in the EU and for Europe’s leading role in advancing human and animal health.

Research using animals has enabled major advances in the understanding of biology and has contributed to the development of nearly every type of treatment used in medical and veterinary practice today. Research on animals continues to be necessary to understand human and animal health and disease, and to develop and improve treatments for patient benefit across the world.

Animals may be used in research under the Directive where the potential medical, veterinary and scientific benefits are compelling and there is no viable alternative method. The use of animals for testing cosmetic products was banned across the EU in 2009 and the importation and sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals from outside the EU was completely banned in 2013.

For research using animals to be both ethical and scientifically rigorous, it must meet high welfare standards and the implementation of the Directive is key in achieving these standards consistently across the EU. Shaped by consultation with animal welfare groups, scientists and animal technologists, the Directive importantly embeds into EU legislation the requirement to consider the 3Rs when using animals in research. The 3Rs are:

  • Replacement – methods which avoid or replace the use of animals;
  • Reduction – methods which minimise the number of animals used per experiment;
  • Refinement – methods which minimise any suffering and improve animal welfare.

Developments for alternative methods to the use of animals in research, such as use of human cell models and computer modelling, continue to progress and the biosciences sector must continue to drive these forward. However, alternative methods are not able to fully replace the use of animals at this time. For many diseases, including complex conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, which affect multiple organs, we must understand how the whole organism interacts, which means that research using whole animals continues to be essential.

We call on the European Parliament and Commission to reaffirm their commitment to the Directive. Any roll back from this would both undermine animal welfare and compromise high-quality research using animals. Such research is critical to advancing human and animal health in the EU and globally -and to maintaining Europe’s leading role in that endeavour.

It’s important to remember that although the petition passed the one million threshold, it still only represents less than a quarter of one percent of the EU’s population. It’s therefore vital the scientific community remains open about animal research and opposes initiatives such as these to protect both human and animal welfare.

Aamna

How Monkeys Help to Prevent HIV Infection

With the European Parliament voting on the future of primate research there is no better time to discuss the medical benefits that such research provides – and which would be lost if primate research is severely restricted or banned.

We are all familiar with the use of drug regimes such as HAART to control HIV levels and prevent progression to AIDS in people infected with HIV, but an often overlooked area of HIV research is the development of drugs regimes that prevent infection taking place in the first place Examples of such regimes are the drugs used to prevent transmission of the virus from a HIV infected mother to her child during birth and the post-exposure prophylaxis that helps medical profesionals to avoid infection after accidental exposure to HIV-infected blood. Here Dr. Koen Van Rompay, a virologist at the University of California at Davis and founder of the development organization  Sahaya International, explains how important animal research was to the early development of such HIV prophylaxis regimes, and how important it continues to be as scientists develop ever better treatments.

Since the piece is a little longer than the average blog post (but still a very readable length) it is attached as a word document which you can read by clicking NHP Prophylaxis – Van Rompay.