This legislation is aimed at making animal testing obsolete by promoting alternative methods, while stopping short of an outright ban. However, there will be regular reviews into the necessity of testing on primates. The '3Rs' principles of replacement, refinement and reduction will be followed.
Mr Parish commented:
"It is essential that we balance the need to reduce and eliminate animal testing with the need to ensure that high quality research for new medicines for human health continues.
This directive sets the framework to allow us create an environment where animal testing is made redundant yet it will not impede scientists’ work in tackling debilitating and terminal medical conditions.
This law will ensure that animal tests are carried out in the most humane way possible. The current law is over 20 years old and desperately needed updating.
These proposals would mean that testing on animals - particularly primates - could only be conducted if there was a strong scientific case for doing so and a clear potential benefit to human health.
We all look forward to the day when we no longer need any animal testing. This new law is intended to make that day come far sooner."
Neil Parish MEP, who chairs the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, is encouraged that EU agriculture ministers meeting today will consider a Hungarian proposal to scrap the electronic tagging of sheep.
At the end of 2007 it was agreed that tags would be introduced from 2010. The movement of every sheep - and goat - would be recorded. Tags currently cost £1.50 - which is sometimes more than the financial worth of a sheep. The UK has a third of the entire sheep population of Europe, and the potential costs of the system are estimated to be as much as £42 million annually.
The Hungarian delegation to the Council of Ministers will request that plans remain optional. Mr Parish has called on DEFRA Secretary Hilary Benn to oppose the scheme. Mr Parish said:
"The government has been making encouraging noises on electronic sheep tagging for some time yet twice they voted in the Council of Ministers to impose this scheme on our farmers. Monday's meeting is the chance for Hilary Benn to correct his past mistakes and stand up for our sheep farmers.
Electronic tags are expensive and offer no benefits to animal health. There may be a time for electronic tagging of sheep, but the technology is just not ready for it yet.
Hilary Benn needs to persuade other governments that now is not the time to bring in the electronic tagging of all sheep. Not only is the technology simply not ready but it is still far too costly."
The European Commission has fined the UK £74.5 million for the Single Farm Payments cock-up, which saw Britain fail to meet the EU's deadline for providing subsidies for farmers. In 2005 the Rural Payments Agency was bedevilled by administrative mistakes.
Mr Parish comments:
"One again our government's incompetence has caused British farmers and the British taxpayer to lose out.
When at Defra, Margaret Beckett introduced a hybrid system for making payments that everybody told her would lead to this calamity, yet she went ahead anyway.
Beckett's legacy of blunders is still being felt in the countryside today, yet she still sits around the Cabinet table. That shows the level of contempt this government has for the countryside."
This is good robust stuff from Mr Parish; but could the Government be more robust still? Just imagine the following for a moment.
Gordon Brown calls a press conference and calmly announces:
"The mistakes surrounding Single Farm Payments in 2005 were deeply regrettable, and I apologise on behalf of my Government. Farmers were badly hurt by what happened. It is important now that farmers and taxpayers alike do not suffer any further, not least in light of the current economic difficulties we all face.
Consequently, I am resisting the European Commission's demand that we pay £74.5 million. I am only too happy to discuss reform of EU farming rules, as the UK has been at an unfair disadvantage for years. What I simply will not do is allow UK taxpayers to be fleeced.
Simply put, we will not be paying a fine."
There might be, as the late Alan Clark would have put it, "a terrible fuss". And it will never actually happen, of course. But isn't it time that we started to be a bit more assertive towards the EU? If we must remain a member - and the author's personal view is that we should negotiate a non-exclusive free trade arrangement instead - then could we not at least start picking and choosing which bits work for us, like other countries do?!
Whitehall is far too meek in the face of pressure from the European Union. It's time to show some muscle. We are a great nation, after all. And, when push comes to shove, the EU doesn't want to lose the UK market.
"The European Parliament,
– having regard to Protocol No 33 to the EC Treaty, which refers to animals as 'sentient beings' and states the Union's desire to 'ensure improved protection and respect for the welfare of animals',
– having regard to Rule 116 of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas Regulation (EC) No 998/2003 seeks to regulate the movement of dogs and other pets within the EU,
B. whereas the BBC Panorama programme on 30 August 2007 exposed the appalling subculture of dogfighting within Europe and the disturbing trade in fighting dogs within the EU,
C. whereas dogfighting is barbaric and devoid of any aspect of legitimate sport,
D. whereas this practice runs contrary to the steps laid out in the Commission's Animal Welfare Action Plan for 2006-2010, which aims to improve global animal welfare,
1. Calls on the Commission to act upon Parliament's response to the Animal Welfare Action Plan, which called for all animals, not just farm animals, to be included in EU animal protection measures;
2. Calls on the Commission to take further steps to ensure that dogfighting is stamped out throughout the EU;
3. Calls on the Commission to review the operation of the EU Pet Passport scheme under Regulation (EC) 998/2003, with a view to ensuring that its purposes are not frustrated by the misdescription of dogs;
4. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission and the governments of the Member States."
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