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European Commission - Press release

Commission replies to "Stop Vivisection" European Citizens' Initiative

Brussels, 03 June 2015

The European Commission today set out the actions it intends to take in response to the 'Stop Vivisection' European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). Whilst, the Commission does share the conviction that animal testing should be phased out in Europe, its approach for achieving that objective differs from the one proposed in this Citizens' Initiative.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "The 'Stop Vivisection' Citizens' Initiative comes at a time of transition – thanks to major technological advances, Europe is reducing the use of animal testing. However, a complete ban on animal research in the EU would be premature and it would risk chasing out biomedical research from Europe."

Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "The ultimate aim of EU legislation is to phase out all animal testing. In response to the Citizens' Initiative, the European Commission is taking a number of actions to enable faster progress in the uptake and use of alternatives approaches."

In the Communication adopted today, the Commission confirms that it shares the Citizens' Initiative's conviction that animal testing should be phased out. At the same time, it points out that this is the main aim of the EU's rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU), which the Initiative seeks to repeal. The Commission considers that the Directive is the right legislation to achieve the underlying objectives of the Initiative, therefore no repeal of that legislation is proposed. The Directive is needed to ensure a high level of protection of the animals used in research. Once the Directive has been in force long enough to assess its effectiveness, the Commission will review it.

The Communication sets out a number of further actions that the Commission will take towards the goal of phasing out animal testing. The Commission will organise a conference engaging the scientific community and relevant stakeholders by 2016 and on that occasion present a progress report on the actions taken.

Over the last decade, technological advances have revolutionised biomedical research. Major breakthroughs include the development of alternative tests based on cell and tissue cultures, and computational methods that reduce the need for testing animals. But many complex physiological and toxicological processes and effects cannot yet be adequately modelled or assessed by alternatives, so some animal studies are still needed to advance research and to safeguard human, animal and environmental health.

The Communication indicates a need to accelerate progress in the area of replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals testing through knowledge sharing, and the Commission will continue to support the development and validation of alternative approaches. Dialogue with all stakeholders will continue, especially with the scientific community, to advance towards the goal of phasing out animal testing.

Background

The EU is committed to animal welfare, to improving public health and protecting the environment. EU laws for medicines, chemicals and food safety require testing of products prior to marketing them to prove that they are safe for humans, animals or the environment.

Directive 2010/63/EU aims to strengthen legislation and improve the welfare of animals needed for use in scientific research, while striving to replace, reduce and refine the use of such animals.

Following "One of Us" and "Right2Water", "Stop Vivisection" is the third European Citizens' Initiative that reached the necessary thresholds. It was submitted to the European Commission on 3 March 2015, signed by 1.17 million citizens.

European Citizens' Initiatives (ECI) were launched in April 2012 as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of 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.

As set out in the Lisbon Treaty and the ECI Regulation, the Commission must react within three months of submission of an ECI with 1,000,000 validated statements of support. The Commission therefore had until 3 June 2015 to decide whether it would act by adopting legislation, act in some other way to achieve the goals of the ECI, or not act at all. The Commission had to explain its reasoning through a Communication adopted by the whole College of Commissioners.

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.

For More Information

The European Citizens' Initiative

'Stop Vivisection' European Citizens' Initiative

Communication setting out actions in response to 'Stop Vivisection' European Citizens' Initiative: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/initiatives/finalised/answered

IP/15/5094

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