The Guild proposes recommendations on the use of animals in research
Phasing out the use of animals in research would put health research in Europe under major threat while alternative animal-free methods that are scientifically valid do not yet exist.
Last autumn, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to accelerate phasing out the use of animals in research, proposing an action plan with reduction targets and timelines. The European Commission answered to the resolution in February, indicating that it did not support the call for the action plan. The Guild welcomes this position, since a phase out of the use of animals in research, disconnected and not considering scientific progress, would put health research in Europe under serious threat.
The scientific community is committed to implementing the 3Rs (replacement – reduction – refinement) principle for a better protection of the animals used in research. An unprecedented development of new research techniques contributes to reducing the number of animals used in research. However, these animal-free methods cannot entirely replace the use of animals in many research areas yet. Often, research in life science and medicine still requires the use of animals to test conclusions on living organisms. Animals are especially indispensable in fundamental biology research to investigate biological mechanisms involving the whole body, with complex communication between tissues and organs.
The Guild supports a replacement of animals as soon as scientifically possible and without lowering the quality of science and the level of protection for human health and the environment. A total ban on animal research would limit or prohibit crucially important life sciences, including medical and biomedical research, in Europe and ultimately put health care at risk. It would harm the capabilities of European universities and other research-performing organisations to improve understanding of human and animal diseases, and, based on this knowledge, to develop effective diagnostics and therapies, safe drugs and vaccines. Additionally, a ban on the use of animals in research could accelerate the shift of animal research to countries where standards for animal welfare are lower than in Europe.
In response to the Commission’s position, The Guild:
- strongly advocates against the adoption of a ban on the use of animals in research or of a plan with deadlines for the implementation of alternative animal-free methods. Instead, the European Union should invest in the development of new techniques to further improve animal welfare, reduce the number of animals used, and refine the techniques employed for their use.
- calls for the Commission to ensure that the current regulations on the protection of animals used in research are fit for purpose, and coherently implemented and interpreted across the EU member states. The Guild also highlights that competent authorities need adequate skills, infrastructures and financial resources for an effective implementation of the 3R principles and protection of the animals used in research.
- recommends a close engagement of the whole research community in the implementation of the 3Rs principle. The Guild fully supports the European Parliament’s concern to “prioritise actions to educate, train and retrain scientists, researchers and technicians” to accelerate the uptake of alternative animal-free methods, reduce the number of animals used in research, and refine research procedures.
- emphasises the importance of communication and transparency to enable greater understanding of the reasons for using animals in research among policymakers and the general public.
Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild, said: “We welcome the strong support shown to scientific research to improve public health by the Commission in its response to the European Parliament’s resolution to phase out the use of animal research in completely unrealistic ways. It is critical that lawmakers understand that without the use of animals in research, the development of future life-saving treatments, for instance against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, would simply not be possible.”