My readers may remember a previous post detailing a crisis in animal-based research in Italy. Early this morning I received a note from the Basel Declaration Society alerting me to an urgent situation developing in Belgium. Scientific research with non-human primates appears to be in serious jeopardy in that nation, but it is hardly likely that the fallout from any anti-science policy prohibiting research will remain restricted to Belgium alone. Bioscientists from Belgium are asking for immediate help and support from the world science community; Prof Rufin Vogels, current President of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience, and his colleagues have formulated a petition to the Ministers of the EU and the members of the Belgian parliament. The Basel Declaration Society (to which I am a signatory) is supporting this petition; I am including the text of the petition. Please read it and consider signing.
Dear minister, dear member of parliament,
Recently, the Belgian government, in particular the ministry of Health, has asked the European Commission to permit them to be more restrictive than the Directive 2010/63/EU by allowing them to forbid addiction research on nonhuman primates (NHP) in Belgium and possibly even to stop all nonhuman primate research in Belgium. This question is currently under investigation by the EU commission.
In parallel, other actions at the level of the Belgian government aim to limit if not stop biomedical research involving nonhuman primates by giving power to the minister responsible for animal welfare (which currently is the minister of Health in Belgium) to decide on the authorization of each individual project. The new proposal states that the minister will appoint members of a new national advisory Ethical Commission, specifically dedicated to nonhuman primate research. This national commission will give an advice on every nonhuman primate project, in addition to the local ethical committee. Every project involving NHP will have to be approved by the minister, which is free to follow or ignore the advice of the national and the local ethical committee. Thus, the minister will have the power to decide her/himself on each nonhuman primate project, which potentially can lead to decisions that may halt scientific progress and impair human welfare and health eventually. In particular, politically active animal rights extremists may have a strong impact on these decisions.
This proposal runs counter to the new EU Directive (articles 37 and 38), which specifies the procedures for project authorization and project evaluation. No specific procedures for NHP projects have been identified in the EU Directive.
Numerous scientific reports state that progress in biomedical research necessitates experiments on nonhuman primates (monkeys). As acknowledged by the recent Directive 2010/63/EU on animal experimentation, this includes basic (fundamental) research as well as more applied research. Therefore we ask that the Belgian authorities comply with the 2010 EU Directive, allowing basic and clinical research peer-reviewed projects that involve nonhuman primates and that adhere to the animal welfare regulations stipulated in that Directive, and refrain from more extreme and restrictive actions that will impair scientific and medical progress.
You can sign with your name and email (for verification/confirmation only) or through Facebook (if you have an account). Their primary goal is 1000 signatures, and they are now just past 500. But it is vital that the entire bioscience community of the world rises up and help our Belgian colleagues-in-research.