Transition to non-animal testing methods: plans and actions in the EU
The European Union is constantly improving the protection and welfare of animals. Animal testing, when used for scientific purposes, has to strictly respect the EU legislation. The ultimate goal of the Union is to completely replace the use of animals. In fact, Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes aims to replace, reduce, and refine the use of animals used for scientific purposes - the principle of the Three Rs. Using animals for research requires transparency. Additionally, the Directive highlights that their use should not occur unless no other alternatives are available.
How to accelerate the transition
Despite the efforts, there has been a minor decline in the number of animals used for tests. Therefore, the European Parliament prepared a resolution in September 2021 and published it in March 2022. The resolution includes plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing, and education.
According to the 2019 statistical report on the use of animals for scientific purposes in the EU, up to 12 million animals are bred and killed for the purpose of animal testing without being used in actual experiments annually.
Benefits of the ban on animal testing in cosmetics
Regarding all applicable rules to limit animal testing, the European Parliament urges the EU and its Member States to take actions that could further reduce the use of animals in research. The ban on animal testing for cosmetics demonstrated that the replacement of animal testing did not hinder the development of this sector. The ban sparked the progress of alternative methods in research, the development of medicines, and the safety of chemical substances in other sectors.
What does the resolution foresee?
Animal tests are still run in the scope of other regulatory frameworks. Whereas the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) already have in place strategies to replace animal testing, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) still has to introduce means by which animal testing will be reduced and replaced.
According to the European Parliament, the resolution should include among other things:
· Existing initiatives and systems of controls should be better implemented and enforced. While some of the EU Member States adopted national measures to guarantee a high level of protection of animals, others still apply the minimum level.
· The growth of the European Research Area and development of non-animal methods build on research already undertaken in the EU. It would require the creation of mechanisms for the preferential funding of non-animal methods.
· Education and training to ensure non-animal methods' availability across all scientific research areas. To eventually complete the transition to innovation without using animals, training on alternative methods will be necessary.
· Increase in funding under Horizon Europe for advanced non-animal models.
Objectives of Next Generation EU and Green Deal
The ambitious plans of the European Parliament are consistent with health and environmental goals set out by Commission. Non-animal alternatives will have to be prioritized to achieve the objectives of the Next Generation EU recovery plan and the European Green Deal. Now that it is more feasible to substitute animal testing with other methods, the goal of the ‘full replacement of procedures on live animals’ largely depends on the development of non-animal testing methods and the promotion of different alternatives.
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European Commission. (2020). 2019 report on the statistics on the use of animals for scientific purposes in the Member States of the European Union in 2015-2017. Retrieved on 29/03/22 from: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/04a890d4-47ff-11ea-b81b-01aa75ed71a1
European Parliament. (2021). European Parliament resolution of 16 September 2021 on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education (2021/2784(RSP)). Retrieved on 29/03/22 from: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.C_.2022.117.01.0084.01.ENG&toc=OJ%3AC%3A2022%3A117%3ATOC
European Parliament. (2021). MEPs demand EU action plan to end the use of animals in research and testing. Retrieved on 12/04/22 from: MEPs demand EU action plan to end the use of animals in research and testing | Nieuws | Europees Parlement (europa.eu)
European Parliament. (2021). MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education. Retrieved on 12/04/22 from: MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education (europa.eu)