Animal welfare minister promises dialogue on animal testing

Summary

Ben Weyts, Flanders’ new animal welfare minister, has promised to look at the issue of animal testing more closely while countering that the region is already home to strong regulations

Phase it out, says Gaia

Flanders’ animal welfare minister, Ben Weyts, promised a dialogue on animal testing in a recent episode of the VRT news programme Reyers Laat. Weyts had a debate with Michel Vandenbosch, president of Belgium’s animal rights organisation, Gaia, following the airing of the documentary Dieren als instrumenten (Animals as Instruments), which was shot in the labs of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

Weyts stated that the regulations in Flanders are already stricter than in many other regions and countries, with ethical commissions that examine the necessity of any given lab’s tests on animals. “We don’t know where science would stand without animal testing, but we have to try to reduce the number of tests,” he said.

The minister said that he wants to speak to the laboratories and scientists to examine which alternatives are possible and that he counts on businesses to contribute. “It’s in their best interest,” he said.

Vandenbosch said that he realised it is not realistic to abolish animal testing tomorrow, but that we have the moral duty to do everything to make them no longer necessary. “A strategy has to be developed, with clear goals, otherwise we’ll never get there,” he said. “We also need a new generation of researchers who question the use of animal tests.”

KU Leuven Alzheimer expert Bart De Strooper, meanwhile, has collected 1,300 signatures for an open letter to minister Weyts and to innovation minister Philippe Muyters in which he questions the increase of regulations on animal testing. He also combats the image of scientists using test animals irresponsibly.

“We are very concerned about animals and use them for tests if there are no alternatives, such as in research on new drugs,” he said in a statement. “New regulations will cause researchers to spend more time on other things than research itself. That’s not to the benefit of society." 

Photo courtesy ADC

Ben Weyts, Flanders’ new animal welfare minister, has promised to look at the issue of animal testing more closely while countering that the region is already home to strong regulations.

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