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Animal Testing in Europe

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 5 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Animal Testing occurs regularly throughout the European Union (EU). While it occurs more frequently in areas such as the United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany, animal testing still plays a large role in research and drug development around Europe.

Types of Testing Used in Europe

In Europe, biomedical testing still remains the most widely used type of research for drug development. Toxicity testing for drugs, foodstuffs, household chemicals and various other substances is performed in laboratories throughout Europe. Rats and mice are the most commonly used animals while reptiles are the least commonly used animals. Recent years have seen a surge in the use of zebrafish and non-human primates. While ethical concerns regarding zebrafish are low, those involving non-human primates are high. The aim within Europe has been to reduce the number of monkeys and similar animals used for testing purposes. Although their likeness to humans has great value in animal testing, this same likeness raises extreme ethical concerns regarding their ability to feel pain and to experience suffering and psychological distress.

European Statistics for Animal Testing

European statistics showed that France used 2.3 million animals in 2005 while Germany used 1.8 million animals in that same year for testing purposes. National UK statistics contrasted somewhat because they showed that for 2004, France used 2.3 million animals while in 2005, Germany used 2.4 million. Statistics for 2005 showed that Finland and Ireland both decreased their use of animals. In contrast, Sweden, Spain and Greece all increased their use of animals, either doubling or near-doubling their use.

Across all of Europe, there are approximately 12.1 million animal testing experiments performed each year. While there is some debate regarding the statistics of which country is the highest tester of animals, Britain is thought to be the top user of animals with its use of nearly three million animal experiments each year. France is a very close second and generates a large amount of debate given that L'oreal - a major global cosmetics company - is based in France and still tests on animals. Europe's overall laboratory use of animals has actually increased very recently by 3.2 percent. This contrasts with the fall in animal testing over the last few decades. It's also important to note that one of the biggest animal testers from a global perspective is Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), which is based in Europe. HLS kills approximately 75,000 animals each year.

Cosmetics Testing on Animals in Europe

While the UK officially banned animal testing on cosmetics in the late 1990s, Europe has been somewhat slower to implement a ban. A near total ban is, however, planned for 2009. While most of the EU supports the ban, countries such as France have voiced strong opposition to the ban, citing their belief that cosmetics testing on animals are necessary for sufficient health and safety testing of products. L'oreal, one of the biggest cosmetics companies in the world, is based in France and the opposition is due, in part, to the presence of this cosmetics conglomerate. Still, the ban is waging ahead and is widely supported by most of the public as well as many scientific leaders and organisations in the industry.

Future of Animal Testing in Europe

Europe will undoubtedly continue to perform animal testing although the debate over cosmetics testing on animals may still affect the implementation of the proposed ban next year. At the same time, the debate over animal testing for all types of research such as biomedical and academic-related knowledge will likely continue to be fueled by animal welfare groups and subsequently, their campaigns and protests to end animal testing. For now, however, the scientific community and most of the public do support animal testing for medicine and health, which means that it will continue alongside the controversy that it generates.

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