End of animal testing in the European Union: what consequences

Measures to avoid the use of animals in research were approved almost unanimously by the European Parliament on September 16. However, the debate on the supervision of animal experimentation raises other questions such as the techniques which would replace living beings in experiments for scientific purposes, as well as the possible endangering of human health.

No animal species is a biological model for another

By following the principle that a successful experiment on animals is not necessarily valid for humans, militants have been trying for several years to stop animal experimentation. According to a report, over the period 2015-2017, these experiments mainly involved rodents (mice and rats, 73% of the animals used), rabbits (9%) and fish (13%). Cats, dogs and primates represented 0.3% of the animals used. In 2019, 69% of the animals that took part in experiments did so for basic and applied research, mainly in immunology, cancerology and neurophysiology. 23% of animals were used for regulatory testing, with testing of cosmetics banned in 2009. The “Stop Vivisection” initiative claims that animal testing is actually a waste of money and time because it there are “solid scientific principles that invalidate the animal model for predicting the human response”.

Animal experimentation has nevertheless enabled many scientific discoveries.

According to an article by The Conversation, animal experimentation does not pose a scientific problem. Analysis of the scientific literature shows that animal experimentation is practiced in all universities around the world, and that its importance has been validated by organizations such as the European Association for Animal Research (EARA), the Foundation for biomedical research (RBF) and the American Institutes of Health (NIH). Vaccination, tissue transplants, contraceptive and fertilization techniques in vitro, therapies to treat diabetes, allergies, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers have all benefited from experiments conducted in animal models. The vinegar fly, for example, has provided insight into immunity, heredity or development. This is explained by the fact that the fundamental mechanisms of cell division, metabolism, are the same between different living species. For Eric Muraille, biologist, immunologist and researcher at the FNRS, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the European Parliament does not rely on legitimate evidence to justify the ban on animal testing. According to him, this will negatively affect biomedical research and on the other hand the development of standards that respect ecosystems and our health.

An opportunity to put the EU at the forefront of non-animal testing technology

According to Humane Society International (HSI), an association that works to promote the human-animal bond and fight against cruelty, reaching a new model without animal testing will require a strategic reorientation to fund projects that do not involve animals. The EU could take this opportunity to position itself as a world leader in innovation by creating new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises that will develop new non-animal scientific testing technologies.

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