Another Defeat for Science and Animals

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Another Defeat for Science and Animals

By Ray Greek, M.D. on National Anti-Vivisection Society
May 2009

New directive approved by European Parliament creates controversy

Last week [May 2009] the European Parliament (EP), arguably the best bet for pro-animal changes in animal experimentation, chose to side with vested interests instead of science or compassion. The EP had an opportunity to find, based on good science, that animals are not predictive for humans and that at least some animals should not be used in research. Instead they sided with the status quo and according to some actually made the current situation worse for animals.

The EP regurgitated the Three Rs; the same Three Rs that have been in vogue during the time when animal use has increased by several orders of magnitude. The vivisection community was ecstatic. The EP press release:

"We all want to see animal tests reduced. However, European citizens quite rightly demand the best and most effective medicines", Mr Parish said. [emphasis added]

Once again we see the vested interest groups conflating drug safety with testing on animals implying that animal tests are predictive for humans.

"The Parliament report makes it clear exactly when testing on animals should be allowed and under what circumstances. It strikes a compromise between ensuring that research can continue in the EU and improving animal welfare", he added.

The actual result of this is that animals can be used whenever the researcher wants to use them. It is interesting to note that the same people who have been calling for a reduction ("We all want to see animal tests reduced”) in the number of animals used have presided over a vast increase. Such disingenuousness appears to go unnoticed by society in general and many animal protection groups. Apparently the best way to find cover for an unpopular position (such as vivisection) is to criticize the position publicly while continuing to maintain and support it whenever change appears possible. The EP press release:

“The report rejects the idea that tests using non-human primates should be restricted to "life-threatening or debilitating" conditions, as this would seriously hinder research into, among other diseases, some forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.”

This is an unmitigated victory for vivisectors.

According to Science:

Approving recommendations made by a committee last month, the European Parliament today soundly rejected calls for legislative changes that could have more severely restricted the use of animals in research.”

European scientists had been concerned that the amendments to the 86/609/EEC directive, proposed in 2001, would limit animal research and increase its bureaucracy. As a result, biomedical groups and animal-rights groups engaged in fierce lobbying. However, scientists breathed a sigh of relief last month when a report by the European agricultural committee proposed removing many of the barriers that had most worried scientists. Today, a large majority of the European Parliament voted in favor of the committee’s recommendation. Its report will now move to the Council of Ministers as the debate rages on. (see Science Magazine)

The Science article continued:

Even animal-rights groups were partially pleased with the outcome, with the Dr Hadwen Trust, a U.K. medical-research charity that promotes the use of alternatives to animal research, citing positive changes such as improved pain-severity classifications and more investment in alternatives to animal testing.

I seriously question what any animal protection group could possibly find to be pleased about. The status quo is if anything weakened, several potential advances were absolutely defeated, the same old rhetoric was used to justify the status quo, and the vivisection community is very happy with the outcome. Any supposed animal protection group that agrees with the vivisection community about this should be called into question regarding their motives and where their funding comes from.

Science, scientists in general, and the scientific community in general are not served by this directive either. As long as vivisectors get away with using animals and selling the practice to the public as making drugs safer and predicting human response to disease, then the frank failure of animals to accomplish this will be quoted by anti-science zealots the world over. Society as a whole suffers when science and critical thought are replaced with decisions based on financial interests.

There has been no real change for the better, from the perspective of science or animals, in animal-based research and testing in the last century. There has been constant improvement for vivisectors as more and more money becomes available for them and as their financial interests are represented by special interest groups and lobbyists. As long as the animal protection community heralds defeats as victories there will no real change for the better in the next century.

Please see Dr. Greek's essay, Why Science is Important to Animals.

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