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Note: The contents in words and pictures of this article are based on the facts when it was first published (04.09.2006).

Vienna, 4th September 2006

Austrian activists call old vivisection law outdated

At a demonstration in front of the Austrian Parliament, animal rights campaigners have demanded new legislation on animal experiments to replace the existing law which campaigners have described as outdated

In order to make their point and to draw attention to their demands, a group of activists staged a demonstration in front of the Austrian Parliament in Vienna on 4th September. During the demonstration, several activists dressed up as vivisectors and one dressed in a dog costume performed a mock LD 50 test during which a tube was inserted into the stomach of the 'dog'.

The 2005 Animal Welfare Act in Austria explicitly excludes hunting, fishing, and vivisection. Vivisection is regulated by laws that date back to 1988, a time when animal protection was viewed very differently by society. Since 1988, a lot has changed in Austrian society. For example, there are now legal bans on fur farming and the use of wild animals in circuses. Yet animal experiments are still governed by an outdated law.

The main criticism concerns the following aspects:

• The Austrian Animal Experiments Act does not consider any experiments on invertebrates, like octopi, as an experiment.

• It is a common standard in most countries, to have a committee that considers every application for a license to experiment on animals. While in most cases this is not considered a very efficient way of issuing licences as most regulatory bodies are designed to rubber stamp applications, committees do have the power to turn down licences. In Austria, however, there is only a voluntary committee, which only has the ability to make suggestions to the minister in charge of licences, but no power to deny an application.

• The Austrian Animal Experiment Act does not allow applications to be turned down on ethical grounds. They can only be turned down if there are already accepted alternatives. Otherwise, only proof of a 'sensible' scientific reason is all that is needed for the application to be approved.

• The Animal Solicitors, a body that was introduced by the new animal welfare act 2005 which has legal standing for individual animals and can take up cases on behalf of an animal, has no powers when it comes to laboratory animals.

Of the 5 main parties standing for election to Parliament on 1st October 2006, 4 have agreed that the Animal Experimentation Act must be completely reformed. However, the Conservative Party currently in government disagrees and has said that the Act is sufficient.