The 18th of December 2014 was the big day. That was when the revised Animal Testing Act entered into force. This revision, 37 years after the original Act, was necessary because, during the intervening decades, there have been many developments in the areas of laboratory animal use, animal welfare, and new approaches to the 3Rs (the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal procedures). The revision of the Act was also necessary to keep pace with European legislation, which had already been revised in 2010. I know what you’re thinking. “So Brussels is telling us what to do again?”. And yes, a harmonized approach to the issues of laboratory animals and animal procedures is highly desirable.
By the way, our little country is indeed making its presence felt in the Brussels arena. Very recently, the mammoth EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation was revised by scrapping a hitherto required animal procedure. Admittedly, it was replaced by another animal procedure, but this one required fewer than 50% of the original number of animals. It was the Netherlands that submitted this proposal, along with supporting scientific evidence provided by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Thus, a Dutch initiative to reduce the numbers of laboratory animals being used became an EU-wide requirement. And there are many more examples of the Netherlands’ long-standing pioneering role in this area. Further details of this will be provided in upcoming blogs at this website.
One of the revised Act’s provisions involves the establishment of a Netherlands National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Quite a mouthful, but ... is this yet another talking shop? No, the way the cards are dealt and the rules of the game are entirely transparent, indeed there is an emphasis on transparency and openness. You can find descriptions of the Committee’s duties and objectives elsewhere on this website. What I want to address here is the independence of the NCad and its advisory reports with respect to all stakeholders, including the government.
Since November last year, my six fellow committee members and I have been warming up by establishing efficient working practices and other practical aspects, as far as possible, before 1 January (when the NCad formally commences operations). In addition, despite their profound differences, it appears that the members have now come together to form a close-knit, effective team. While I have high expectations, I am also well aware that the pressure will soon start to mount up, because the requests for advice have already begun pouring in.
One thing is absolutely clear, we will not allow ourselves to be carried away by “passing fads” or to be influenced by issues that reek too much of politics.