An animal protection society has warned on Facebook that a European Union directive allows pets to be used for animal testing and the fur industry. The information given is mostly false.
On 4 May a Facebook user posted a photograph of a notice that had apparently been written by the “Tierschutzverein Strausberg, Rüdersdorf, und Umgebung e.V.” [an animal protection society]. The notice is a warning to “all owners of free-roaming cats” and claims that a European Union directive adopted in 2010 but not yet made public permits the use of stray pets in animal testing. Indirectly it also claims that, as a consequence of this directive, there is now a trade in cat fur. We have fact-checked these claims.
Society confirms that the notice is genuine
The animal protection society in question has confirmed on its Facebook page that the notice was written by its chairperson. In a statement it says: “Please note that this information comes from our chairperson, Frau Altmiks, although it was written several years ago.” We sent a press enquiry to Frau Altmiks but she had not replied by the time of publication.
The EU directive is publicly available
The notice claims that Directive 2010/63/EU allows stray pets to be used for laboratory animal testing. The German version of the directive is freely available online.
What does EU Directive 2010/63/EU actually say?
The directive was adopted on 22 September 2010 for “the protection of animals used for scientific purposes”. On the subject of feral and stray animals, paragraph 21 of the directive says the following: “Since the background of stray and feral animals of domestic species is not known, and since capture and placement into establishments increases distress for such animals, they should not, as a general rule, be used in procedures.”
Article 11(1) puts it more categorically: “Stray and feral animals of domestic species shall not be used in procedures.”
However, the directive leaves a back door open. Article 11(2a) and (2b) state that stray and feral animals can be used in animal testing under certain circumstances provided an exemption has been granted by the competent authorities. The conditions laid down by the directive are that there must be “an essential need for studies concerning the health and welfare of the animals or serious threats to the environment or to human or animal health” and, additionally, that there must also be “scientific justification to the effect that the purpose of the procedure can be achieved only by the use of a stray or a feral animal.” So the exemptions only apply to the use of animals for study purposes.
The animal protection society’s notice refers to the fur trade, but this is not mentioned in the directive at all. It is mentioned in an EU regulation, however. EU Regulation 1523/2007, passed on 11 December 2017, prohibits the trade in, and import or export of, cat and dog fur anywhere in the EU. The only exception is for the purposes of education or taxidermy (Article 4).
What is the difference between an EU directive and an EU regulation?
The EU says on its website that “A directive is a legislative act”. Directives are goals that all EU countries must achieve. It continues: “However, it is up to the individual countries to devise their own laws on how to reach these goals.” The purpose of directives is to define Europe-wide standards for all member countries.
An EU regulation, by contrast, is “a binding legislative act” that “must be applied in its entirety across the EU”.
The EU directive only permits the use of stray or feral domestic animals for animal testing in exceptional circumstances. An EU regulation passed in 2007 prohibits the trade in cat and dog fur.