Animal Aid

Europe Vivisection Vote: MEPs conned by big business

Posted 6 May 2009

The European Parliament has voted to allow millions of animal ‘procedures’ to go ahead throughout the EU each year without the need to seek formal approval. Only ‘moderate’, ‘severe’ and primate experiments would need approval from a central authority, leaving an estimated 4.3 million experiments to go ahead ‘on the nod’.

MEPs were voting on a draft Directive that will update the current 23-year old statute governing vivisection across the EU. The May 5th vote was a critical moment in a hard fought battle during which parliamentarians have been targeted by pharmaceutical company lobbyists who are desperate to create an even more profit-friendly regime at the expense of animal protection.

Despite MEPs having voted last year to phase out all primate experiments, months of intense lobbying weakened their resolve. On May 5th, they voted to delay indefinitely a proposal by the European Commission to phase out the capture of wild-caught monkeys for breeding purposes. The Commission had also wanted monkeys to be used only in experiments relating to ‘life-threatening or debilitating’ human conditions. But, MEPs backed an amendment permitting primate use also for ‘basic’ or curiosity-driven research. The back-tracking amendments were tabled by British Tory MEP for the South-West region, Neil Parish, who is Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee.

There has been much concern in recent weeks about a Parish proposal that would permit animals to be subjected to ‘severe, prolonged’ suffering. While that amendment was passed, so was another by the Greens, which says no ‘severe’ procedure can go ahead ‘if the pain, suffering or distress is likely to be more than transient’. This apparent contradiction and other key issues will be settled in the months ahead as Parliament’s draft Directive is passed back to the Commission and to Ministers of Member States; and, once again, back to the Parliament.

The May 5th plenary session also endorsed some positive proposals. These included more funding for the development of replacements for animal experiments and a bigger role for the European institution charged with developing non-animal methods (the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods).

Also approved were a biannual ‘thematic’ review of primate research (with a view to eliminating experiments judged unnecessary) and a similar review of all types of experiments. These reviews are the one significant gain from the whole process to date and have resulted from tireless campaigning by antivivisection groups across Europe, and in particular Animal Defenders International.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘The struggle to achieve some meaningful protection for animals in laboratories does not end with the MEPs’ May 5th vote. But it will outrage a great many people that Europe’s political representatives have been so comprehensively conned by big business, whose self-interest obliterates any concern for animal suffering. The current law governing vivisection is 23 years old. During that time there has been a revolution in powerful, human-relevant research tools that make animal use look absurdly obsolete. These include the use of computational power, DNA chips, robotics and imaging machines. MEPs – with a few honourable exceptions – had the opportunity to vote for the future; they voted for the past. Now the battle goes to the Commission and the Council of Ministers.’

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