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World-renowned bioethicist and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, is urging Members of European Parliament to support a strategy to replace medical experiments that use animals with more ethical and reliable methods. Her call comes as the European Commission prepares to publish draft legislation to update the European Union's animal experiments directive (Directive 86/609 EEC).
Biomedical researchers, MEPs and animal protectionists will join Dr. Goodall today at the Replace Animal Experiments in Europe event in Brussels, Belgium. Event organizers, the Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research and Humane Society International, are spearheading a campaign to accelerate European efforts to revise the current directive that while intended to protect animals used in laboratories is more than 20 years old and leaves hundreds of thousands of animals without protection. They are calling for Europe to establish a world-leading Centre of Excellence in non-animal research to speed up the development of new techniques.
"The revision of EU animal experiments legislation provides an unprecedented opportunity for lawmakers to improve the protection of animals in laboratories worldwide through promoting the development and use of alternatives to animal research," said Emily McIvor, EU director for HSI. "The EU already leads the world in validation of alternatives to regulatory animal tests; this event shows how the same can be achieved for medical experiments."
The European Commission has been promising to update the animal experiments directive for years, with publication of the legislative proposal originally expected in 2007. Now delays threaten to prevent Commission adoption before fall 2008. The groups organizing the event say that further delay is simply unacceptable, and accuse the Commission of deliberately blocking improved standards of animal protection.
"This is a key moment in the history of Europe's responsibilities towards animals," said Dr. Gill Langley of the Dr. Hadwen Trust. "Urgent action is needed to improve the protection of animals and to replace unethical and outdated animal experiments with non-animal techniques. The revision of this Directive offers us the ideal opportunity to enable Europe to lead the world in humane science. These techniques are more advanced and relevant to human patients, so it is for the benefit of animals and people alike that Europe should focus on a strategy to move away from the era of animal research and hasten the new era of modern science without animal suffering."
At the event, Dr. Goodall will be presenting a 150,000-signature petition to the chair of the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament on behalf of EU citizens supporting such a strategy, across the United Kingdom, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
"We should admit that the infliction of suffering on beings who are capable of feeling is ethically problematic, and that the amazing human brain should set to work to find new ways of testing and experimenting that will not involve the use of live, sentient beings," said Dr. Jane Goodall. "The scientific establishment should actively encourage such research. More funding should be made available for it. And rewards — such as a Nobel Prize — should be given for it. It is a goal worthy of great energy and scientific ingenuity. It is a goal towards which all civilized nations should be moving."
The Replace Animal Experiments in Europe event is jointly organized with the Green/European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament and is supported by: Jens Holm MEP, Chris Davies MEP, John Bowis MEP, Caroline Lucas MEP and Dan Jorgensen MEP.
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