The EU now wants to 'test drugs on pets'? It makes it sound as if the EU will be snatching kittens from crying children and hauling them off to the laboratory.
Here's how Ted Jeory explains it:
Thousands of pets in Britain could end up being used in lab tests if European plans to weaken our tough animal welfare laws succeed.
The Brussels directive could trigger a dramatic rise in the number of cats, dogs and horses used in laboratory experiments.
The plan would remove the special protection domestic animals currently have and could even allow pets deemed strays to be used for the first time.
Towards the end of the article Jeory eventually admits:
Under the EU directive, member states can retain their own laws providing they were in place by last November.
So none of this may happen anyway and the Government may stick with the existing legislation. But if the Directive is adopted, does it mean that the EU will get its hands on your pets?
Indeed, the Directive doesn't mention 'pets' at all but refers instead to 'Stray and feral animals of domestic species'. The Directive (paragraph 21) says:
Since the background of stray and feral animals of domestic species is not known, and since capture and placement into establishments increases distress for such animals, they should not, as a general rule, be used in procedures.
Article 11 adds that exemptions may be granted only where:
(a) there is an essential need for studies concerning the health and welfare of the animals or serious threats to the environment or to human or animal health; and (b) there is scientific justification to the effect that the purpose of the procedure can be achieved only by the use of a stray or a feral animal.
Inevitably, the European Commission Representative in the UK has been forced to fire off another letter in response to the Sunday Express' article:
Your front-page on EU plans to use pets in scientific experiments is nonsense. The pets of Britain are safe from scientific experiments. EU rules state that only animals specifically bred for research can be used. Only where the research specifically relates to stray animals (say, into illnesses that could be passed to children after contact with strays) can an exception be made.
There's one other part of the Directive that Jeory neglects to mention:
this Directive represents an important step towards achieving the final goal of full replacement of procedures on live animals for scientific and educational purposes as soon as it is scientifically possible to do so. To that end, it seeks to facilitate and promote the advancement of alternative approaches.
And, as the press release states:
The main objectives are to considerably improve the welfare of animals used in scientific procedures... The directive is based on the need to Replace, Reduce, and Refine animal testing – the Three Rs principle. The Commission believes strongly in the need to find alternative methods to testing on animals. Where this is not possible the number of animals used must be reduced or the testing methods refined so as to cause less harm to the animals.
So the EU would like to reach a position where live animals are not used for testing. Until then, only animals specifically bred for testing can be used. Stray and feral animals of domestic species shouldn't be used, but in circumstances where research relates directly to issues around strays, exemptions may be granted. But as the UK has tougher rules already in place, that exemption might not be adopted by the Government anyway.
To the Sunday Express, all this means: the EU wants to test drugs on your pets.