Research interests are gearing up for another tough fight with animal rights activists when the European Commission’s proposed revisions to the animal testing Directive, 86/609/EEC, go to a full vote in the European Parliament early next month.

Understanding Animal Research, the UK-based advocacy group formed last year from a merger of the Research Defence Society and the Coalition for Medical Progress, says it is vital that scientists across the UK contact their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) “as soon as possible” to solicit support for the recent report on the Commission’s proposals adopted by the Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

To the fury of animal rights groups, the Committee voted through a number of amendments that activists claimed would seriously weaken provisions for improving the protection of laboratory animals in EU legislation. They accused MEPs on the Committee of being swayed by intensive lobbying from the animal research sector against many of the provisions in the proposed new Directive.

According to Understanding Animal Research, the report by UK Conservative MEP Neil Parish “contains a number of substantial improvements”. Many of the amendments proposed address the concerns of the UK bioscience sector, although a few “introduce new problems”, the group said. Nonetheless, as things stood, “the consensus from the scientific community is that the report is balanced and an acceptable compromise”, it commented.

Animal rights groups “will be lobbying heavily against the improvements made by the Agriculture committee, as well as for additional restrictions and burdens on animal research”, Understanding Animal Research warned.

If the committee’s report is not voted through, it claimed, “then we lose everything we have worked for in the last four months. We go back to square one, with all the problems of the original Commission proposal. This affects us all and would put the future of bioscience across Europe at risk”.

The amended proposals are scheduled for a full plenary vote in the European Parliament on 4-7 May.