Animal charity celebrates Strasbourg success

Animal welfare charity Animal Defenders International is celebrating an "extraordinary victory" after gathering enough MEPs' signatures to trigger a ban on primate medical research in the European Union.

Some of the campaign material ADI sent to MEPs
Some of the campaign material ADI sent to MEPs
The European Commission is compelled to incorporate a written declaration in EU law if lobbyists collect the signatures of 393 MEPs – half the members of the European Parliament. ADI collected the signatures of 429 MEPs in support of its declaration advocating a ban on the use of all great apes and wild-caught primates and the phasing out of all primate use in EU laboratories.

For the declaration to be successful, the signatures must be collected within three months of the declaration being adopted by five MEPs. A spokeswoman for ADI said it had gathered only 320 signatures a week before yesterday’s deadline. “It has been nail-biting stuff,” she said. “We did it with only a day to spare and our team was on cloud nine.”

She admitted that the process was onerous. “You need to campaign so hard to get the signatures,” she said. “The first 100 are the hardest. After that, it’s a question of people following the herd. But you also need good arguments. It’s not just a case of getting emotional – you need evidence. That is what MEPs respond to.”

The charity’s campaigning included bombarding MEPs with leaflets and humorous cartoons, and even hanging reminders on their office doors at the parliament’s Strasbourg offices. “We learned very early that the security people don’t like funny costumes because it looks like you are planning a demo,” the spokeswoman said. “You need to go in wearing business clothes.”

Completing the process of turning the written declaration into law would normally take years, but the spokeswoman said it could be cut to less than one year if the ban was supported by the commission’s review on animal testing, which is due to report next month.

She said the charity had taken the European route after getting expressions of support for its campaign from MEPs and the failure of early day motions in the UK’s Parliament to attract support from the Government.

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