ACCELERARE VERSO UNA SCIENZA SENZA ANIMALI. IL MIO INTERVENTO AL WEBINAR ORGANIZZATO DA CRUELTY FREE
Ho partecipato all'evento "Building Back Better" organizzato da Cruelty Free Europe.
I piani di ripresa dell'Unione europea per ricostruire meglio dopo la crisi del coronavirus includono proposte ambiziose per rafforzare la ricerca e l'innovazione e rilanciare l'economia. Next Generation EU è un'opportunità per l'Europa di diventare ancora una volta il punto di svolta globale sostituendo la ricerca sugli animali con nuove metodologie di approccio e di essere il fulcro mondiale della scienza umana e rilevante per l'uomo. Per fare questo sarà necessaria una strategia proattiva coordinata e ambiziosa tra e all'interno delle istituzioni dell'UE, degli Stati membri, dell'industria e del mondo accademico. Se non ora quando?
C'è una crescente consapevolezza dei limiti della ricerca sugli animali e della sua incapacità di fare previsioni affidabili per gli esseri umani. Negli ultimi anni, gli Stati Uniti sono arrivati a dominare i mercati della tossicologia basata sulle cellule e in vitro.
In questa conferenza online si discuterà del contributo che nuovi metodi e nuovi approcci possono dare per realizzare il Green Deal dell'UE e per ricostruire al meglio il mondo post-covid.
Qui di seguito trovate il mio intervento:
"First of all, thank you very much for having me today. It is a great please for me to take part in this event and kick-start the discussion of this amazing panel, together with some inspiring, likemindended women who are doing a remarkable job to advance the transition to a more humane science.
As a member of the European Parliament at my second mandate, I would like to contribute to today's debate by giving you an overview of what policymakers are doing (or not doing!) and what is, for me, the way forward to achieve our common goal of a humane, human-relevant research that no longer sacrifices millions of animals lives unnecessarily.
Let me start by setting the record straight: over the past years, Europe has not done enough to achieve the goal, it set itself, of phasing out the use of animals in science. 23 million was the number of animals that in 2017 were harmed for scientific purposes in the EU alone. Many of these animals went through immense suffering, and the overwhelming majority of them ended up dead. Despite the adoption in 2010 of 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, it is clear that the number of animals used for scientific purposes is not decreasing. Not only, a huge number of animals is currently being used in areas where other methods are available and more feasible than traditional ones, in breach of the directive for which animals should be used only when no other methods are available.
Violations of the already too weak EU legislation are recurrent, many of them go completely under the radar, and the same happens to the immense suffering of the animals involved. Only some of them receive the media attention they deserve, as it was the case for the LPT laboratory in Lower Saxony that was forced to close after the shocking investigation conducted by Cruelty Free International (and which unfortunately has now gotten its licence restored). Despite all this, the European Commission continues to claim that Directive 2010/63/EU is fit for purpose and a revision of the EU legislation in this area is not necessary.
To be objective some positive initiatives have taken place over the past years, such as the SEURAT initiative, the establishment of EU-Tox Risk and EURL ECVAM, which represent a key allay in pushing for the change we want to see. Nonetheless, concrete advancements are often lacking due to the lack of a structured coordination between all the different Commissioners and DGs who have a stake in the issue of animal testing (and this speaks to the need of creating an inter-service working group on alternatives to animal testing (with external experts) which isn’t a simple advisory and volotontary body as it is the case for EPAA - European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing).
But what is more promising in the EU landscape - which is what I would like to focus on - it’s the growing support within the European Parliament and among EU citizens for a real transition to an animal-free science.
As a member of the PETI Committee, I can guarantee that this is an issue that is close to the hearth of many European citizens, who are petitioning the Parliament asking the EU to step-up its action in this domain.
Within the European Parliament, at the beginning of this new legislature a very large number of MEPs, from across the political spectrum, have signed a declaration calling for on the Commission to accelerate the transition to non animal science: a very positive sign of an increased political sensitivity on this topic, which was then reflected in actual votes over the course of these past months.
In addition, within the Animal welfare intergroup of the European Parliament a working group on animal used in science (of which I am a member) has been recently established and has already proven to be very active and committed in pushing for serious progress in this area. (I am sure Luisa will talk more about the activity of the intergroup).
Our hope is to gather the support necessary to present a Parliament Resolution calling on the Commission to put forward an effective strategy with concrete milestones and precise timelines to transition to non-animal science.
Indeed, I truly believe that if we want to see concrete results and make significant steps towards the goal of phasing out the use of animals in science we need a strategic action plan, an effective roadmap to transition, within the shortest possible period, to non-animal science in Europe. I also believe that the time is right and if we work together, we can make this happen. Europe can and Europe needs to lead the transition towards a better and more humane science.
I believe the way forward, this roadmap, should be built on three key words: Milestones, Money and Mindsets. The “3 Ms”!
1) We need concrete milestones that can gradually but surely ensure a full phase out. These milestones need to be implemented by adopting binding targets for the reduction of the number of animals used in research with precise timelines. The experience in other policy areas shows that only with clear targets and deadlines we can ensure both that the necessary change actually take place and assure the necessary degree of certainty to industries and sectors effected in order for them to adapt. We also need to identify areas in which we can immediately adopt a full ban. Italy, for example, already in 2014 adopted a ban on the use of animals for research on addictive substances (or drugs of abuse). Unfortunately, the implementation of this ban have been postponed year after year. Yet, now there is a chance that it will actually enter into force next year. This will be great news for all us and will set an example that the EU as whole should follow. However, it is important that Europe move along, in this area and in many more: otherwise we risk creating a situation in which countries like Italy that decide to be more ambitious could be subject to an infringement procedure by the EU for having adopted rules on animal testing that are stricter than the EU ones. That is why we need a roadmap for Europe to move forward and we need it now.
2) Money: We need more funding for the development of non-animal methods! Estimates suggest that funding for Horizon 2020 projects claiming primary and secondary benefits for non-animal methods comes to approximately 0.1% of the total 80-billion-euro programme for the period 2014-2020. This needs to change. Only with appropriate funding for these programmes, we can ensure that a transition can happen within a period that is reasonable.
3) Finally we need to work on changing the mindsets of both researchers and scientists and the general public. The formers need to get used to alternative methods, which they should see as the “default option” instead of relying only on animal methods just because this the way they always did. Education should play a central role: not only in Universities (where modules on alternative to animal testing should become central part of the curriculum of our future scientists) but also much earlier in their schooling.
A change of mindset is also necessary among the general public who needs to see a transition towards an animal-free science not only as an ethical question but also as a path that can enable our society to reach long-awaited advancements, being it on cancer or Alzheimer research, where animal methods fail to deliver human-relevant results and non-animal methods have a huge potential that needs to be explored.
This is a general overview of what I think Europe should and can do moving forward and I believe that today’s conference was a great first milestone in this process. I’m now really looking forward to the discuss and to seeing what we will accomplish together. Thank you!"