Jeremy Rifkin:      OPINION PIECE  on STOPVIVISECTION

Moving Beyond Animal Experimentation Across the European Union

 

Sometimes, the great transformative changes in society fly under the radar screen. That is happening right now across the European Union. A grassroots citizens movement to halt the senseless practice of subjecting millions of animals to painful suffering and death in the testing of toxic chemicals that affect human health is picking up momentum in every country in Europe.

 

The STOP VIVESECTION campaign (http://www.stopvivisection.eu/) is taking advantage of article 11 of the European Treaty, which establishes the right to introduce European Citizen’s Initiatives (ECI), to mobilize broad popular support. Under the procedure, if one million EU citizens from at least one quarter of the member states sign onto a Citizen’s Initiative, it can be automatically submitted to the European Commission in the form of a legislative proposal, giving the citizenry the same formal right to propose legislation that is already granted to the European Parliament and the European Council.

 

The STOP VIVESECTION initiative has already collected over 700,000 signatures from across Europe and is within striking distance of reaching its goal of over 1 million signatures. 

 

For years, governments, corporations, and researchers have argued that the testing of animals to assess the risk of chemicals to human health is essential to ensure the well-being of our own species. But now, new breakthroughs in the field of genomics, bioinformatics, epigenetics, and computational toxicology are providing new research tools for studying the impact of toxic chemicals on human health that are far more accurate in assessing the risk of these chemicals to human beings. Antivivisection societies and animal rights organizations have made this argument for many, many years—only to be scorned by scientific bodies, medical associations, and industry lobbies who accuse them of being “anti-progress” in caring more about animals than people. Now it is the scientific establishment, interestingly enough, that has come to the very same conclusions.

 

A number of years ago, the National Research Council of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences—the premier scientific body in America—issued an exhaustive study questioning the continued value of subjecting millions of animals to toxicity testing. According to the report, and this is a quote, “current tests provide little information on modes and mechanisms of action, which are critical for understanding interspecies differences in toxicity, and little or no information for assessing human variability and human susceptibility.” In other words, millions of animals each year are subjected to senseless suffering and put to death despite the fact that the tests provide very little information for assessing the risk of these chemicals to human beings. Toxicity testing in animals is simply bad science.

 

The National Academy of Sciences report says that new cutting-edge technologies now offer the possibility of securing more accurate data for the first time on chemical risk exposure. Indeed, the architects of the report say “over time the need for animal testing should be greatly reduced—and possibly even eliminated.” Good news for our fellow creatures.

 

While the new methodologies for toxicity testing will spare the lives of millions of animals, they also hold the promise of saving the lives of millions of human beings. Quicker and cheaper testing procedures and more accurate data will speed the assessment of these risks of chemicals and provide the means of creating new drugs and other interventions to secure our own health. In short, it’s a win-win for both our fellow creatures and human beings.

 

The public may be largely unaware of the fact that Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union acknowledges that “since animals are sentient beings” the formulation and implementation of EU policies must “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”

 

With new state-of-the-art research-testing models, there is no longer any need to subject millions and millions of animals to inhumane testing in research laboratories. It is time now to quickly phase out vivisection research in laboratories across the European Union. The STOP VIVESECTION Citizen’s Initiative takes Europe and the world into a new era where we extend our empathic sensibility to our fellow creatures, recognizing their inherent right to exist and flourish alongside our species here on Earth.

 

Jeremy Rifkin is an adviser to the European Union and to heads of state around the world. He is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C.