We have taken note of this initiative as the Labour Party has long tradition of campaigning for highest standards of animal welfare: from farming, to problems of stray animals, to animal testing.
Consequently, our 2015 Rural Manifesto proposes to finally end the ineffective and inhumane badger culls, improve the protection of dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, defend the hunting ban, tackle wildlife crime and reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and lead the global fight against animal cruelty. All these points clearly demonstrate Labour's strong animal welfare record and ambitions.
Indeed, on 22 January 2015 for example we asked EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska to clarify the issues related to continuation of animal testing by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), despite provisions of the EU Cosmetics Regulation. We are concerned by the continued use of animal testing in cosmetics industry and have sent a strong signal to the Commission that we demand decisive action on their side.
The European Parliamentary Labour Party is committed to increasing our European standards for animal welfare and supports all efforts to find reliable and efficient alternatives to animal testing, including vivisection. In relation to human health and our attempts to tackle certain diseases and conditions we believe there is a role for vivisection in neuroscience. We also understand that many of the UK’s major animal welfare organisations, including the RSPCA and the Humane Society, do not support the European Citizens' Initiative "Stop Vivisection".
You might be interested to learn that the European Parliamentary Labour Party supported EU Directive 2010/63 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes which represented a significant improvement on previous EU legislation by reaffirming the so called Three Rs principle: to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for scientific purposes. As the European Commission rightly argues, the scope of the directive is now wider and includes foetuses of mammalian species in their last trimester of development and cephalopods, as well as animals used for the purposes of basic research, higher education and training. The directive lays down minimum standards for housing and care, regulates the use of animals through a systematic project evaluation requiring inter alia assessment of pain, suffering distress and lasting harm caused to the animals. The development, validation and implementation of alternative methods is promoted through measures such as establishment of a Union reference laboratory for the validation of alternative methods supported by laboratories within Member States and requiring Member States to promote alternative methods at national level.
The European Parliamentary Labour Party therefore fully understands the arguments of the scientific community and remains deeply concerned with the fate of patients suffering with brain diseases and other serious medical conditions. Consequently, we are of the opinion that in the short run we still need to rely on vivisection as a necessary tool to develop vital treatments for humans. Nevertheless, I hope a comprehensive and balanced European solution to the problem of animal testing can be found and I am looking forward to see Commission's commitment.
Please be informed that on 11th May the European Parliament will hold a joint hearing of four committees to discuss the latest European Citizens' Initiative 'Stop Vivisection'. Your Labour MEPs will be present at the hearing with a view to outline our position on vivisection. No parliamentary vote is scheduled following the hearing.
I wish to assure you about my vigilance and attention to this important subject.