EU votes for REACH… what’s that?

It seems that all of a sudden the EU parliament’s view of chemicals policy, REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), is big news with Google News tracking 656 articles, but add ‘animal testing’ to the search and it comes down to just nine, which is rather odd because the new regulations will result in 30,000 chemicals currently in everyday use being safety tested and those tests will lead to a million additional animal experiments.

There is a consensus that many of the chemicals we all come in contact with may be far more dangerous than we realise and should be tested. But the question is how we go about that. That cost estimates vary between £1.5bn and £8.6bn, shows just how vague all this is. The saving in healthcare costs is put at ‘billions’, but we don’t really know they’ll be any such savings.

The British Green Party had proposed amendments in support of non-animal testing. I’ve nine MEPs and the amendments were already supported by a Liberal Democrat (who also happens to be on the right committee), a Labour member and even a Tory (see if any of yours were good guys), all of whom were on the losing side.

Late last week I took the time to write to all my other MEPs (i.e. those that weren’t already supporting these amendments) asking them to do so. The replies I got were so vague I’m not sure how they voted, if at all. (The UKIP member failed to respond, probably because this isn’t the sort of thing a party with their narrow brief thinks on.) Dan Lyons, director of Uncaged Campaigns emailed me to explain that Den Dover MEP is out of step with other Tories who had tabled amendments that undermined efforts to reduce animal suffering for fear that that might undermine profit (which is, of course, a traditional Conservative position), that Labour is vague, but German socialists have supported the Tories and that the Lib Dems tend to make the right noises, but are generally incoherent.

What’s clear is that most people who have heard of REACH (and that will only be broadsheet newspaper readers) will only have heard about it on the day the parliament voted and that the animal testing implications will not have been explained. Consequently, there has been no meaningful debate (and so no meaningful political party policy development) anywhere. Yet the chemicals REACH is clumsily trying to protect us from may (but then only may) have real health implications for all of us.

What we do know is that the few MEPs – Labour, Tory and Lib Dem – who actively considered non-animal alternatives were supportive of them, but that at least a million animals will suffer as a result of legislation passed a majority of others who gave it very little thought.
Update: REACH & animal testing: I was wrong#4

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