Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Animal Welfare: Animals used in science, seal ban debated

MEPs were set to discuss the protection of animals used for science Monday evening along with a proposal to ban the trade in seal products. MEPs on the Agriculture Committee have already called for scientific experiments on animals to be set within strict ethical limits, but said they must not hinder research into serious diseases. MEPs on the Internal Market Committee have called for the seal trade to stop. Watch the debates live online from 1900 CET.

Currently around 12 million animals a year are used in scientific testing, including around 10, 00 primates, who are used because of their psychological and physiological similarity to humans.

Balance between science and primate welfare

Many in the scientific community say such research is essential in fighting diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis.

However, many people have strong ethical concerns about such tests, arguing that primates are sentient beings, genetically similar to humans and with highly developed neurophysiology.

Parliament's rapporteur is British Conservative Neil Parish. His report says any possible pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm caused to animals should be eliminated or reduced to a minimum.

It also says that the use of great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, who are threatened with extinction, should be banned.

However, unlike the European Commission which wants an eventual ban, the report says "it would be unwise and potentially disastrous for human health to mandate a date beyond which testing on certain categories of animals, such as non human primates, can no longer be carried out".

It also expresses concern that too many restrictions could give America and Asian the lead in scientific research, as animal welfare limits are less strict.

Seal product ban debated

MEPs will also debate a full ban on all seal products throughout the 27-nation bloc. Seal products are commonly used in gloves and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. Around 900,000 seals are killed annually for commercial purposes. Canada, Greenland and Namibia are the biggest seal hunters.

In the EU seals are killed and skinned in Sweden, Finland and the UK mainly for fish stock management and pest control reasons. Denmark and Italy are the biggest importers of seal furs.

The report by British Liberal Diana Wallis calls for a ban in the trade except for survival hunting by the indigenous population - the Inuit.

Animal welfare at time of slaughter

A staggering 360 million pigs, cattle and sheep are slaughtered every year in the EU. Added to this are 4 billion poultry birds and 25 million animals reared for fur.

A report drafted by Polish Union of Europe for the Nations Member Janusz Wojciechowski to be debated Tuesday says unnecessary suffering by animals should be broadly avoided: animals must be slaughtered only using methods that ensure death instantly or after stunning. Exemptions must however be allowed for certain religious practices, it says.

Source: European Parliament

Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits