Will Changes in Animal Laboratory Law Mean Changes for Animals in Laboratories?

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Will Changes in Animal Laboratory Law Mean Changes for Animals in Laboratories?

From People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
July 2010

PETA is opposed to all animal experiments, but until we can achieve an end to animal experiments, we want to see the tightest possible restrictions on them. The new directive falls a long way short of that, and while some animals will benefit, overall many more animals are going to suffer.

More than 12 million animals are used in experiments in the EU every year, and each EU country's law governing animal experiments is based upon the same basic European law. In November 2008, the EU started the process of updating the existing law (known as Directive 86/609), and in June 2010, the contents of the new directive were effectively finalised. While the new directive still has a number of steps to go through before it is finally signed into law, it is extremely unlikely anything in it will now change. So what's in it, and what does it mean for animals in laboratories?

A Mixed Picture

The new directive will control the circumstances under which animal experiments will be allowed in the EU, the way in which they will be authorised, the conditions in which animals are kept and the public availability of information about what's being done. It was introduced to try to reduce the huge variations in these conditions between different countries in the EU. There are 27 countries in total, from tiny nations such as Malta to giants such as Germany. Some countries have had very few controls on animal experiments, and there's no doubt that the new directive will substantially increase protection for animals in those countries. The main improvements in the law are the following:

These new restrictions will relieve some animal suffering and may prevent some of the most pointless and cruel experiments from taking place. The bad news, however, is that in most respects the directive falls short of the kinds of controls and standards that already exist in many European countries, including the UK, and so it will do nothing to relieve the suffering of animals in laboratories in those countries. The number of animals used in experiments is going up in the UK (and is already among the highest in Europe), and experiments that cause terrible suffering are still permitted here. In the UK, a "harm-benefit" assessment has been required for every experiment for more than 20 years, but that hasn't stopped experimenters from testing cosmetics on animals, causing brain damage in monkeys or poisoning dogs to test pesticides.

PETA is opposed to all animal experiments, but until we can achieve an end to animal experiments, we want to see the tightest possible restrictions on them. The new directive falls a long way short of that, and while some animals will benefit, overall many more animals are going to suffer.

What Happens Now?

The directive must go through a number of formal steps before it is adopted as EU law. These are expected to be completed in the late summer or autumn of 2010. Though it appears unlikely that any further improvements in the law can be made, PETA will keep an eye on developments, and if action can be taken, we will let our supporters know. After the law is adopted, all the countries in the EU must "transpose" the directive – ie, write their own national law to take account of the standards and conditions the directive sets out. They will be given two years for this, and until it is completed, the countries' existing laws will still apply. PETA will be working to make sure that any and every opportunity to strengthen the new UK law is taken, and we will keep our supporters informed of developments throughout that process.