New Irish legislation for laboratory animals

IAVS advisor appointed to advisory committee

The Irish Anti-Vivisection Society is the leading animal advocacy group campaigning for the strictest enforcement of a historic new law intended to regulate and promote the replacement of animal experimentation. We are pleased to announce that the IAVS’s expert policy advisor Dr Dan Lyons has been appointed by the Minister for Health to the brand new statutory ‘National Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes’ whose function it is to advise the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) – the body that has now replaced the Department of Health as the regulator of animal experimentation. Dr Lyons was nominated by the IAVS but must, by law, serve the Committee in an individual capacity. He says: ‘My aim will be to make the case for animal protection, democratic accountability and for the replacement of animal tests with humane, more effective non-animal methods.’

The new law, passed in December, implements a new EU Directive [1] and represents the biggest change in this field since the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act. The IAVS has repeatedly told the Government that the disturbing increases in animal experimentation in Ireland (from 37,940 in 2005 to 232,285 in 2012) combined with growing public interest, means that these laws should be implemented in way that reflects deep public opposition to cruelty to animals.

Animal experimentation laws present unique moral problems, as they allow the infliction of pain and suffering on individuals who cannot give their consent. A significant proportion of Irish animal experiments are officially classed as causing ‘severe and prolonged pain’ and tens of thousands more are used in lethal poisoning experiments to test Botulinum Toxin products. The IAVS is particularly concerned that the Irish Government has passed an optional loophole in the Directive which evades the ban on subjecting animals to ‘severe pain, suffering or distress that is long-lasting and cannot be ameliorated’. No other area of Government policy has such a direct and potentially damaging effect on the welfare of individuals in Ireland.

The IAVS also points out that experiments on animals are only supposed to be permitted on the basis of predicted public benefits. The new law allows a great deal of room for interpretation in key areas, such as how the IMB will conduct the harm-benefit test of proposed research projects, and the composition of ‘animal welfare bodies’ at each animal research establishment. It is therefore essential that there is full public debate regarding when animal tests are allowed and how Ireland can reduce and eliminate animal experiments, which is the ultimate aim of the Directive.


Please write to your TDs to urge them to ask the Department of Health and IMB to establish a participatory public consultation process on the operation of the harm/benefit assessment and dedicated Government funding for research into the replacement of animal tests and disease models. You can use this article to help with the text of your letter.

You can find out who your TDs are by clicking here and then clicking on the 'Display by constituency' tab. Most TDs will have an email address listed on their 'Website'. Otherwise, their emails tend to all have the formula [email protected] . If in doubt, the main phone number for the Oireachtas is 01 618 3000.

 [1] DIRECTIVE 2010/63/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes