The protection of animals used for research: A Directive that is fit for purpose

05 December 2016

While the use of replacement methods is desirable, the use of live animals in research remains essential to protect human and animal health and the environment. Having the right regulatory framework to enable it is crucial. To that end, in 2010, the EU adopted the EU Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and committed itself to reviewing its text by November 2017. Today, one day ahead of the scientific conference that the European Commission (EC) will hold as part of its response to the European Citizens Initiative “Stop Vivisection”, LERU publicly reiterates its support to the Directive and presents its contribution to its reviewing process.

On 6&7 December, the EC will hold the scientific conference on ”Non-Animal Approaches - The Way Forward”. The organisation of this conference is part of the actions that the EC announced in response to the European Citizens´ Initiative “Stop Vivisection” (ECI SV), which  called for the abrogation of the EU Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and the banning of animal research in Europe. LERU takes this opportunity to present its views on Directive 2010/63/EU as part of the reviewing process undertaken by the EC.

In overall

LERU believes that the Directive is serving the purposes stated by the EU when adopting the Directive, mainly: strengthening legislation; improving the welfare of animals used; reducing disparities in legislation across member states; and firmly anchoring the principle of the 3Rs (to Reduce, Refine and Replace the use of animals) in EU legislation.

Although LERU recognizes that the Directive has been implemented at different rates and levels across member statesand that operational efficiency will be variable, LERU strongly supports the main aims of the Directive and believe it makes a significant contribution to the quality of science involving animals through continued progress in improving animal welfare, and encouraging the implementation of the 3Rs.

In particular

LERU contributes to the review of the Directive by assessing some of its most relevant objectives, mainly:

  • Scope-the scope of the Directive is appropriate and relevant.
  • Reducing disparities between Member States-real benefits can only be reaped if the Directive is applied consistently and uniformly across Member States. However, there is a tension between the retention of stricter national measures and the aspiration to reduce disparities and create a level playing field. There has also been a variable rate of implementation and interpretation across Member States.
  • Training and competence standards-different requirements of formalized training between Member States is observed. Greater support from the EC and the Member States to develop activities that might lead to (mutually) acceptable standards of education and training  is recommended.
  • 3Rs activities-continued improvements in animal welfare result from greater emphasis on the 3Rs. Good communication processes and motivational initiatives are developing to promote the principles of the 3Rs throughout institutions.
  • Severity assessment-efforts should be redoubled to clarify and standardize interpretation of severity classification across Member States.
  • Increased transparency-the Directive has positively resulted in all Member States publishing non-technical summaries. LERU members have led the way in publishing more open information regarding the use of animals in their institutions.
  • Administration-LERU members are laboring under the high degree of administration necessary to support the requirements of the Directive. Administrative processes should be the least burdensome possible.
  • Project evaluation-information gained through evaluations can be used more widely to modify experimental protocols as the process evolves throughout Member States.
  • Development of a Culture of Care-self-motivated application of a culture of care is now evolving readily in establishments. Animal Welfare Bodies are central to it.
  • Dogs, cats, non-human primates, animals from the wild, stray and feral animals- LERU supports the provisions for the use of certain animals in research and proposes that the EC provides additional guidance on how to make continued use of the knowledge and competence available in “wild life/field work” sectors to avoid disparities between Member States.

Adrian Deeny, Director of Biological Services at UCL and one of the leading authors of the input, states while we recognize that the Directive is “work-in-progress”, there have been major advances as a result of implementation of the Directive in the Member States”.

Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of LERU, concludes “the Directive is fit for purpose and has set the bioscience sector on a trajectory of improved welfare for animals used in research for the future.”

PDF press release


Policy enquiries

Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, LERU Secretary-General: +32 499 80 89 99 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Mr Adrian Deeny, Director Biological Services, University College London: +44 7540 725424 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Media enquiries

Mr Bart Valkenaers, Press & Communications Officer LERU: +32 498 08 43 49 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)