European Commission commits to accelerating transition towards animal-free research

On 25 July, the European Commission responded to the citizens’ initiative ’Save cruelty-free cosmetics – commit to a Europe without animal testing’. In the European Commission’s response, there is attention for initiatives that will accelerate the transition to animal-free innovations. The recommendations are in line with the Dutch policy concerning the transition towards animal-free innovations.

The European Commission’s response broadly underscores the Dutch policy on the transition towards animal-free innovations and the statement that ZonMw drew up with AVIESAN, which many international research funding bodies and organisations have signed. In that statement, research funding bodies asked the European Commission to include essential insights from the (bio)medical sciences in political discussions about the use of animals for scientific research. Just like ZonMw, the European Commission underlines that animal experiments can only be phased out when it is scientifically responsible to do so, and enough good alternatives exist. The focus of the commitments from the European Commission is on the development, validation and use of animal-free methods that can replace or reduce the need for animal experiments, and not on an accelerated phasing out of animal experiments without the availability of alternatives that contribute to the quality of research and research results.

Commitments in line with the ZonMw Knowledge Agenda Transition towards animal-free innovations

Many of the initiatives and plans of the European Commission also concur with the recommendations from the Knowledge Agenda Transition towards animal-free innovations recently published by ZonMw. For example, the Commission will immediately start developing a roadmap with targets and actions to reduce the number of animal experiments. The roadmap will primarily focus on the analysis and description of legislation for animal experiments, which could be replaced by animal-free methods to investigate the safety of substances. Member States and stakeholders will be consulted about this during two workshops in 2023 and 2024. The European Commission also wants to take action to reduce the number of animal experiments in research, education and trainings and aims to support research into alternatives for animal experiments by making substantial funds available.

ZonMw: development, acceptance and implementation of animal-free innovations

We want to contribute to high-quality innovative (bio)medical research with considerable relevance. We therefore encourage the development, acceptance and implementation of animal-free innovations, for example with our programme More Knowledge with Fewer Animals. With this, we endeavour to realise better results for people and, ultimately, better treatments and drugs. We do that by encouraging animal-free innovations through funding research into developing animal-free models and by bringing parties together. We also promote the acceptance and implementation of animal-free or human measurement models in practice and we actively participate in the debate concerning research with or without experimental animals. In addition, we are committed to the more effective use of results from animal experiments by increasing the findability and reusability of such results.