The ‘Stop Vivisection’ campaign is an Italian-based pan-European initiative launched by citizens, signed by 1.2 million people, calling for “the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”.
The organizers of the initiative had the opportunity to present it to a joint session of several European Parliament committees: the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) in association with the Committee on Petitions (PETI), the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). The petitioners invited the Parliament to prompt an open debate, moving away from the predetermined convention that animal models are necessary.
The debate was controversial, with MEPs divided. On one hand, some positioned themselves in favour of the initiative, agreeing on the need to encourage and support the development of alternative methods, to facilitate the validation process and to ensure these methods become mandatory. On the other hand, other MEPs claimed that animal testing is crucial for the advancement of medical research and for the protection against severe diseases.
The voice of science was represented by Professor Francoise Barré, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for her role proving that HIV causes AIDS, who put forward a very strong case for the importance of animal research in advancing medicine,
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Jyrki Katainen, confirmed that the Commission will provide a formal response to the initiative by 3 June 2015 and agreed to the suggestion of the petitioners to organise a scientific conference in 2017 to evaluate the validity of animal research.
Although, it seems unlikely that the Commission repeals or alters the 2010 Directive on Animal Testing, the campaign may have make some headway in altering future policies. In light of this, and as a response to this campaign, EAMBES, together with the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) and the Virtual Physiological Human Institute for Integrative Biomedical Research (VPH), is working on a joint letter to reflect the position of a coalition of scientists on this controversial topic.