Posted by Dr Nick Palmer on 5th March 2016
Britain’s EU referendum
What’s best for animals in laboratories?
On 23rd June, Britain will vote whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. With the referendum approaching, you might be wondering whether European Union membership is helpful or harmful for animals in UK laboratories.
We’re politically neutral and think that it would distract from our work if we were drawn into general political arguments. In elections we work with all parties to try to get the best results for animals.
And we will champion the cause of animals in laboratories regardless of whether Britain is in the EU or not.
But it will have an impact on our work whichever way the vote goes. So we hope that if you have a vote in the British EU referendum, you’ll consider the implications for animals as you decide how to vote.
What if Britain stays in the EU?
Much of the overall policy on animal experiments is currently decided at EU level. In particular, the Directive on animal experiments is binding on all EU countries, and it’s currently up for review, with decisions to be made next year.
Cruelty Free International is working hard with our partner organisations to achieve a positive result. We’re working to increase transparency and crack down on the worst abuses of the system. If we succeed, it will help animals not just in Britain but in all 28 of the EU countries.
A good example is the cosmetics testing ban that we achieved, which is protecting animals right across the continent and has had a major impact on thinking around the world. But that agreement took two decades to achieve, and any change in the EU needs lobbying in every EU country.
So it’s a real challenge – there are 28 governments to persuade!
What if Britain leaves the EU?
If Britain is no longer a member of the EU, we may cease to be bound by EU rules on animal experiments. In principle, the British Government could decide on a different approach. That might be either better or worse for animals in laboratories.
The advantage of Britain being separate is that it could be easier to achieve change, since only one government needs to be persuaded, not 28 governments. The excuse that politicians would like to be tougher but are limited by European rules would no longer exist.
The drawback is that any change might not be positive for animals, and even if was, it would only affect animals in Britain rather than across the whole of Europe.
Alternatively, the British Government might decide to continue to coordinate policy with the EU in this area. We think this is quite likely in the short term, since there will be so many areas to renegotiate.
In this case, our partnership with other animal groups in the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments would become even more vital. That’s because the key decisions would be made on with much more limited British input.
Our bottom line
Ultimately, our goal will be the same in both cases – to highlight the suffering of animals in laboratories and come to their rescue with persuasive campaigns and powerful arguments.
Increasingly, animal experiments are an international business, calling for an international response. That’s why it’s so important that we campaign for animals around the world.
It doesn’t help to reduce experiments in one country if animal researchers simply move to do them in another country.
As the leading organisation working to end animal experiments worldwide, you can rely on us to champion the animal cause on both sides of the Channel – whatever the referendum result.