Brussels, 16 October 2014
Environment: Commission takes the Netherlands to court over failure to protect animals used for scientific purposes, asks for fines
The European Commission is referring the Netherlands to the European Court of Justice over its failure to enact EU legislation on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The EU rules, which should have been enacted into national law by November 2012, aim to minimise the number of animals used in experiments, and require alternatives to be used where possible. The legislation also lays down minimum standards for housing and care of animals, and regulates their use, taking into consideration criteria such as pain, suffering distress and lasting harm caused to the animals. The European Commission is asking the Court to impose penalty payments of EUR 51 156 per day until the law is enacted.
Although Dutch legislation already provides some protection for animals used in laboratories, gaps remain and almost two years after the deadline given to Member States to enact Directive 2010/63/EU, full compliance with EU standards has still not been achieved. Some of the shortcomings concern the purpose of testing procedures, the use of endangered species, classification of severity of procedures, establishment of an animal-welfare body, as well as prior authorisation for animal testing projects.
The Commission first raised its concerns in a letter of formal notice to the Dutch government in January 2013, and repeated them in a reasoned opinion five months later. The Netherlands replied that the deficiencies in transposition would be addressed in a new Act planned for adoption on 1 January 2014 or soon after. However, despite the progress of the legislative procedure in the Dutch Chamber of Deputies, the draft Act is still awaiting discussion in the Senate. As no new date for final adoption, publication and entry into force of the Act has been announced, it has been decided to call the Netherlands before the EU Court of Justice.
The aim of the Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes is to eliminate disparities between Member States regarding the protection of animals used for experimental, educational and other scientific purposes. The Directive is intended to minimise the use of animals in experiments, in particular vertebrate animals and cephalopods, and requires alternatives to be used where possible, while ensuring that research in the EU remains of top quality. It entered fully into force on 1 January 2013.
If a Member State fails to enact EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission may ask the Court for financial sanctions to be imposed at the first referral to Court, without having to return to the Court for a second ruling.
The penalties take into account the seriousness and duration of the infringement. They consist of daily penalty payments to be paid from the date of the judgment – assuming the Member State is still not compliant – until the transposition process is completed.
For more information:
On the October infringement package decisions, see MEMO/14/589
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12
For more information on infringement procedures: