Yesterday the Petitions Committee dealt with several petitions calling for a partial or total ban on animal experiments, and I listened to the debate with great interest. A couple of colleagues made interesting points which I referred to in my own comments — which I reproduce below, as nearly as I can remember them.
“Madame President, I must apologise to colleagues for coming late to the debate, so I am sorry if I raise points that have already been covered. I was most interested by the comments of our colleague Mr. Jahr (EPP, German) who says that many companies involved in animal research would prefer to use non-animal testing methods, but are unable to do so because EU regulations do not recognise the non-animal tests. I had not heard this before, and I would like to Commission to comment on this proposition” (The Commission later gave the usual anodyne assurances that it understood the problem and was taking steps to solve it).
“Sometimes the anti-vivisectionists seem to assume that wicked men in white coats take a delight in torturing small furry creatures, and do it for fun. This is by no means the case. As our colleague Mrs. Auken (Greens, Denmark) has rightly observed, experiments on live animals are extremely expensive and time-consuming to conduct, and no company or laboratory would do them if there were viable alternatives available.. I believe that everyone in this parliament would agree that we are keen to limit animal experiments to an irreducible minimum, but currently some animal experiments are still necessary.
Only this morning, the media carried reports of tests carried out in America on a trial vaccine against breast cancer. The tests, on twelve mice, were remarkably successful. None of the six treated mice contracted cancer, while all of the non-treated mice did so. I imagine it would be difficult to use non-animal tests in this context.
Madame President, I represent some 4.2 million people in the East Midlands, of whom roughly half are women. I am not prepared to go to those women and tell them that we are denying them a vaccine against breast cancer, merely in order to save the lives of twelve mice.”