EU Lawmakers Fail Animals Who Are Suffering in Laboratories
I have some disappointing news to report. In an obscure committee room in Brussels last month, the new European law governing animal experiments was effectively signed, sealed and delivered – and it’s not what we had hoped and worked for. Although there are several steps the new directive still has to go through before it actually becomes law, all the political players have already agreed on the outcome, and it’s unlikely that anything of significance in the text is going to change now.
How a New Law Gets Made
Forgive me for a minute while I explain a bit about the European Union – it’s important, because this is how so many of the laws (relating to both humans and animals) that affect us in the EU are made. All 27 countries in the EU (known as member states) are bound by the same basic rules with regard to animal experiments. The rules are set out in a law called Directive 86/609/EEC, which was adopted back in 1986 (that’s what the “86” stands for). In November 2008, the European Commission (the body that initiates laws in the EU) proposed a new directive, which Members of the European Parliament (your MEPs, whom you vote for in European elections) and the governments of all the member states have spent the last 18 months considering. Many of you saw the information about this on our website and took action by contacting your MEPs last year. Well, it’s all over bar the shouting now.
What It Means for Animals
Well, the good news is that this directive is very much stronger than the one it’s replacing. In some parts of the EU, there’s very little control over animal experiments, and this should help to raise some welfare standards and stop some of the worst and most pointless experiments that are taking place in those countries. So why did I say I’m disappointed? Because a directive really only sets minimum standards, and in fact, this law is weaker than the national laws that already exist in many other European countries. It will do nothing to improve things in the UK or Germany, for instance, and these two countries account for approximately one-third of all the animal experiments conducted in the EU. Instead of giving us the opportunity to really move things forward, the new law leaves us in the UK right where we were before it was introduced.
The Battle Goes On
PETA and many other animal protection groups across Europe fought tooth and nail to try to make this directive as strong as possible, but we were up against the rich, powerful and very influential animal experimentation industry. Brussels was flooded with lobbyists and frightened politicians were presented with ludicrous scenarios about brain drains and red tape. While I’m proud that a directive was created which raises standards in many places, it’s a long way from what we’d hoped for. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who helped by contacting their MEPs – and so many of you did. Without you, it could have been much worse, and every inch of extra space we managed to win and every rule we managed to tighten will help stop animal suffering. We always knew that this law would not end animal experiments, but we welcome the progress it has made and the fact that there will be less suffering for animals in European laboratories now, and we will never stop working until we achieve that ultimate goal. You can help us with that work by keeping an eye on our action alert section of the website for the latest developments and online actions you can take.