Hundreds of scientists demonstrated in Rome today against a proposed law on the protection of animals for scientific purposes, which they fear threatens biomedical research in Italy.
The law — which was approved by Parliament on 31 July and is awaiting government rubber-stamping — is intended to implement a 2010 European Union (EU) directive covering research animals.
That directive is considered to provide among the strictest regulations in the world. But the Italian law introduces further restrictions which critics say go beyond the directive’s intentions, and may even be illegal under EU rules. It would, for example, stop the use of dogs, cats and non-human primates for research in Italy (except in mandatory drug testing or when directly related to translational medicine), and require anaesthetic for any procedure causing mild pain in animals (such as giving injections).
The rally was organized by Pro-Test Italia, a science lobby group.
Several international scientific societies have publicly voiced their support. The American Physiological Society, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Illinois-based International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) provided statements that declare their own commitments to responsible and humane use of animals in research. The FASEB wrote: “We commend Pro-test Italia in championing life-saving animal research and opposing restrictive regulations that will slow scientific progress.”
The ISSCR declared that it was most concerned about a proposed ban on xenotransplantation (in which cells and tissues are transplanted between species) “which would have a profoundly negative impact on the ability of scientists to conduct stem cell research in Italy.”