The Commission has adopted two reports under Directive 2010/63 on the protection of animals in science - a statistical report on the numbers of animals used for scientific purposes in the Member States, and a report on the implementation of the Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes in the Member States.
Research involving the use of animals can provide much information – for instance they can help to advance scientific knowledge, understand the basis of diseases, and to investigate and develop new medicines. Non-animal alternative methods are used to gain this information whenever possible. Although applying improved biological knowledge, technological advances, computer simulations and test tube methods will allow significant reduction of the number of animals used, these methods are not yet able to fully replicate the complexity and reactions of a living organism especially for systemic and chronic conditions.
Thanks to the new reporting system, the EU is now a global leader for transparency. EU-level statistics will be published every year from now on. This will allow the Commission to monitor progress and pinpoint areas such as where most animals are being used or where the most severe tests are carried out, which can be followed up by focussing efforts on finding alternatives with the highest positive impact on animals and their welfare.
The implementation report shows that implementation of the Directive varies between Member States. Differences in project application and evaluation processes and authorisation times continue to impact negatively on the objective of a level playing field for scientists across the EU. On the other hand, the introduction of Animal Welfare Bodies and National Committees has been successful. In line with the Directive, regular inspections are being carried out, of which 40% are unannounced.
The statistical report shows that the number of animals used in research and testing reported in 2015, 2016 and 2017 has decreased between 2015 and 2017. The statistical report now also shows the number of animals used in scientific procedures for the creation and maintenance of genetically modified animal lines to support EU research and testing needs (1.28 million animals for 2017). In addition, the report contains information on the severity of the distress that the animal has experienced during its use in a scientific procedure. In 2017, over half of all uses were assessed as ‘mild’, whilst 11% were reported as ‘severe’.
To meet research needs, more animals are bred than actually used in scientific procedures under the Directive. For the first time, as part of the implementation report, those animals were also counted (12.6 million in 2017 in the EU). However, even if not used, these animals are fully covered by the high care standards provided by the legislation throughout their lives.
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 is among the most stringent legislation in the world for protecting and improving the welfare of animals still needed for use in scientific research. The Commission is committed to ensuring full implementation of the Directive across the EU, and infringement cases for non-conform transposition of the Directive are pending against a number of Member States. In line with the Directive, the Commission also considers that animal testing for scientific and purposes should ultimately be phased out in Europe as soon as it is scientifically possible to do so, and we are working towards this goal.
The Commission is organising a conference in May 2020 on the use of animals in science and the alternatives. This conference will follow up from the 2016 conference, with the overall purpose of exchanging knowledge and helping to speed up the process toward full replacement of animal use.
5 February 2020