12 May 2016   |   News

EU Commission takes legal action against Italy over animal testing

Scientists say strict limits on using animals in the lab hurt scientific research

The European Commission has begun legal proceeding to change Italy’s law on animal testing after finding the rules violate EU treaties and place “excessive restrictions” on the use of animals in research.

Scientists say the strict limits on animal testing is damaging scientific research in the country. In February, 37 public and private Italian research institutions asked the Commission for the law to be reassessed.

Currently, the Italian law imposes limitations on animal research, including bans on animal transplants, and drug abuse research involving animals – one of the most important research areas for such tests. The breeding of cats, dogs and non-human primates for use in research is outlawed in Italy, as well as conducting mild experiments that do not require sedation or painkillers. There are also limits on the use of animals in university courses.

EU countries are permitted to have more restrictive rules than those in the EU directive only if they were already in place before November 2010, which is not the case for Italy. 

“We can expect opponents of animal research, both inside and outside the Italian government, to campaign to keep the status quo, said Kirk Leech, executive director of European Animal Research Association. “The Italian scientific community must hold its nerve and ensure that the new law adopts the best practices widely applied across the European Union.”

Animal testing is a contested issue in Italy. The country has already incurred hefty fines for a one year delay in adopting the 2010 EU directive governing animal testing.

Last year animal-rights activists in the country saw their EU-wide ‘Stop Vivisection’ campaign to change the law on animal testing thrown out by the Commission.

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