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Responsible biomedical research cannot do without animal testing entirely
The introduction of a collective right of action for animal welfare associations is not necessary to guarantee comprehensive animal welfare in Germany. Statement by MPG President Peter Gruss
It would take a whole series of books to enumerate the achievements of animal research for medicine, but I would like to give at least a few examples. One or the other may still remember the slogan "Oral vaccination is sweet - polio is cruel". Only with the possibility of vaccination against polio did this disease lose its horror for us. At the end of the 19th century, thousands of people were still affected each year, including children who died as a result or who had to live permanently with consequential physical damage. In addition to a large number of vaccines, the use of antibiotics against microbial pathogens would also be inconceivable without animal research. And today we would also have to do without the achievements of medical technology from blood transfusion and organ transplantation to open heart surgery, coronary bypass operations or the insertion of artificial heart valves.
Current research on animals gives hope to numerous people who suffer from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, various infectious diseases, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Alzheimer's. It is important and serves the well-being of the people. Wherever possible, animal testing is being replaced by alternative methods. And so the development of replacement and supplementary methods is very important in research. All German science organizations, including the Max Planck Society, actively support the goal of reducing animal experiments as much as possible. Nevertheless, we also have to accept that questions about complex systemic properties of an organism cannot be investigated on isolated tissues or with the help of computer simulations. Without animal experiments, the potential of biomedical research to treat severe diseases and thus make them more bearable - and possibly even to make them curable one day - cannot be realized.
Again and again animal rights activists urge the introduction of a collective right of action for animal welfare associations at federal or state level, because from their point of view the anchoring of animal welfare as a state goal in the Basic Law (Basic Law extension § 20a GG) alone is not sufficient to guarantee comprehensive animal protection. The red-green state government of North Rhine-Westphalia has now passed a draft law in the cabinet for a collective right of action for animal welfare associations. After hearing the associations, parliament is to deal with the draft law in autumn. The coalition groups in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate are also pursuing similar goals. The initiatives of the animal welfare associations aim to give them the right to sue so that they can represent the interests of animal welfare from their point of view "sustainably". A central argument in this context is a postulated enforcement deficit in animal welfare procedures. The responsible authorities are thus implicitly exposed to the charge of inaction.
In addition to the existing legal situation, no representative action is required for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. The German Animal Welfare Act is already one of the strictest in the world. This means that there are legally clear and sufficient provisions for ensuring animal welfare in the field of animal research. The law defines exactly what an animal experiment is and under what circumstances and by whom it may be carried out. It also provides for a careful review of each individual animal experiment. This guarantees a responsible balance between the importance of the test objectives for science and human health on the one hand and the stress on animals on the other. In Germany, only animal experiments that are essential and ethically justifiable can be approved - even without the animal welfare associations' right to classify. According to Section 15 of the Animal Welfare Act, the animal welfare associations are already involved in the approval of animal experiments in the commissions, which is why there is no objective justification for a group action in this area.
As early as 2004, the Federal Council rejected an application for the introduction of a nationwide collective action for animal welfare associations with a large majority because the existing legal regulations to guarantee animal welfare in Germany were considered sufficient. The federal states followed an assessment of their state officers for animal welfare, the majority of whom had already come to the conclusion in June 2003 at a joint meeting in Bonn that the representative action did not help to implement improved animal welfare. In my opinion, nothing has changed in this assessment.
The introduction of representative actions for animal welfare associations would create serious difficulties for animal experimental research. Because after filing a lawsuit, an attempt must be terminated immediately and assessed first - it could possibly only be restarted after years. Repeated statements by opponents of animal experimentation make it clear that the right of collective actions should be used as a targeted instrument to delay or prevent animal experiments in basic biomedical research through lengthy legal proceedings. Affected researchers would in not a few cases be forced to look for a better location for their scientific work. It is to be feared that innovative basic research and the training of young scientists in the field of biomedicine would be severely hindered. Germany would be seriously damaged in its importance as a reliable and internationally competitive location for science and research.
For these reasons, the Max Planck Society firmly rejects the introduction of a collective right of action for animal welfare associations at both state and federal level and calls on the state governments concerned to revise their plans and thus send a positive signal for the national and international To set Germany as a science location.
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