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Yesterday, the EU Commission replied to the "Stop Vivisection" European Citizens' Initiative, rejecting their proposal to ban animal research in the EU. In a fourteen page long response, the EU Commission lists current initiatives and sets out a number of further actions that the Commission will take to speed up the development of valid alternative approaches.

Dr Mark Downs FSB, chief executive of the Society of Biology said:
"We welcome the European Commission's decision not to repeal the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The Directive was implemented in 2013 following years of careful and broad consultation to design a legislative system that would raise and harmonise welfare standards."

Professor Dr Bernd Müller-Röber, president of the German Life Science Association (VBIO) commented: "We welcome that the European Commission based their decision on factual arguments and was noticeably not primarily driven by political considerations as such to the model of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)."

The EU Commission also emphasised that animal models have made a significant contribution to the development of major medical advances and that many complex physiological and toxicological processes cannot yet be adequately modelled or assessed by alternatives. Mark Downs adds: "The Directive mandates the application of 3Rs wherever possible and ensures a high level of protection of animals. We would welcome stronger signals from the Commission that a well-funded Horizon 2020 will include resource to advance the important challenge of developing and validating refinements and alternatives."

To facilitate a dialogue between relevant stakeholders, the Commission is planning to organise a conference by end of 2016. We would encourage this open discussion on a European level, where hope of a large number of patients for effective therapies has to be taken as seriously as the view expressed by more than 1 million EU citizens who wish to ban animal research.

A press release of the German Life Science Association VBIO can be found on their website.

Background

Directive 2010/63/EU aims to strengthen legislation and improve the welfare of animals needed for use in scientific research across Europe, while determined to replace, reduce and refine the use of such animals. The Commission will review it in 2017 in order to assess to which extent the Directive is reaching its objectives. The "Stop Vivisection" European Citizens Initiative (ECI) was submitted to the European Commission on 3 March 2015, signed by 1.17 million citizens. An ECI allows 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to take action in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.

A public hearing on the "Stop Vivisection" European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was hosted by the European Parliament on 11 May 2015 in order to provide a platform for debate for Members, the general public, the ECI's supporters and experts in the field.

The Animal Science Group, a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology, is actively involved in formulating and supporting policy involving animal research.

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