Yesterday, the ENVI, AGRI and PETI Committees of the European Parliament held a Public Hearing the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition ‘Save cruelty-free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing’, which impacts major fields in the remit of the ITRE Committee, namely EU industrial and research policies.
The ECI organizers were the only speakers invited to this hearing, that is why I want to echo the voice of several members of the European Parliament by stressing the risks posed by this Citizens’ initiative. As far as scientific research is concerned, the existing EU legislation is by far the most demanding and fit-for-purpose in the world as it already foresees the complete replacement of animal use in science when scientifically possible.
EU scientists are constantly working on non-animal methods to replace animal models, simply because we cannot afford to lower the level of protection for human and animal health and also for the environment. A ban on animal testing within the EU only would trigger a massive scientific brain drain and industrial delocalization to countries where the standards for animal welfare are lower. In particular, it could potentially lead to a shortage of medicines within the EU and a loss of strategic autonomy in the health sector. Let me also recall that animal health can be improved only if researchers use animal models.
A Europe without animal testing would imply the end of veterinary research. Moreover, I say it since 2015, and I will keep saying it: while non-animal methods have significant potential, they are not able to substitute animal testing in all cases. Committing to a timeline for the phase-out of animal testing it is unrealistic and will significantly harm European competitiveness in the life sciences at a time when we aim for European sovereignty and technological innovation is key. Finally, a roadmap with time constraints and milestones would be non-realistic since it is not yet possible to predict when scientifically valid methods replacing animal procedures will become available.
I encourage the Commission to continue to fund research into alternative non-animal methods through Horizon Europe Programme and to make use of this programme and others to train its researchers and help them make breakthrough innovation.