The European Union adopted a new law last week that bans the use of great apes in animal testing. Gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are all protected under the new law, but the use of some primates, such as macaques and marmosets, will still be allowed in tests involving treatments for Alzheimer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to the ban, the law also requires animal testers to find alternatives to using animals if possible and to reduce the level of pain inflicted on the animals during testing. The legislation lists different categories of pain that may be inflicted during a test: non-recovery, mild, moderate or severe. Animals subjected to mild to moderate pain would be allowed to be reused in experiments.
According to data there are 12 million animals used in lab experiments each year. The 27-nation bloc will have 2 years to comply with the rules.
The ban has received mixed reviews from animal rights activists. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection said the directive was a “missed opportunity” to give greater protection to animals used in testing.
The Humane Society International hopes the legislation sends a message to the United States to enact a similar ban. "This directive also sends a challenge to other countries such as the United States where chimps are still used in significant numbers," said Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society International.
Last year the European Union banned the use of animals in cosmetic testing. That ban will go into effect in 2013.
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