Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

European Commission criticised over investigation into primate research alternatives

Posted: 30 October 2012. Updated: 23 November 2012

In September 2007, the European Parliament set a historic target to end primate experiments in Europe when it adopted a Written Declaration on primate research. The Declaration, championed by ADI, called for urgent action to end the use of Great Apes and wild-caught monkeys in experiments, and for a timetable to be set to end all experiment on primates across Europe, replacing them with alternatives.

In May 2008, the European Commission requested that its Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risk (SCHER) issue an opinion on the possibility of replacing non-human primates in research. Following a public consultation, SCHER initiated a public hearing which ADI criticised for being biased and deeply flawed. In failing to make replacing primate experiments with non-animal alternatives a central theme, the SCHER hearing disregarded the key aims of Written Declaration 40/2007, despite claims that the hearing was set up in response to the Declaration. SCHER published its final position in January 2009.

Following a complaint to the European Ombudsman questioning the balance and necessity of expertise of the SCHER working group, the European Commission were criticised by the ombudsman for the methods which they employed to choose the experts assessing evidence on replacing primates. Most notably, according to the complainants, none of the experts specialised in primate research and only one had some experience in the use of alternative methods to primate use.

The Ombudsman outlined that the work of committees such as SCHER should be based on technical excellence, independence, impartiality and transparency. He further concluded that “the expert selection system used by the chair [of SCHER] was not appropriate” to guarantee these principles and that the method of selecting experts was potentially incomplete. A comparative assessment of experts should have been carried out and this properly documented and made publicly accessible.

In this case, the draft recommendation by the Ombudsman was that the Commission should consider modifying the rules which govern the establishment of a scientific committee including a call to experts to express their interest.

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