Italy has made international news a lot lately -- and not for good reasons. Former Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi was sentenced to jail for tax evasion (though it's unlikely he will serve any time because of his age). And somebody threw bananas at the country's first black government minister, just two weeks after an Italian senator said the minister reminded him of an orangutan.
Now, Italy is in the news again. This time, it's because the Parliament voted to essentially shut down a substantial proportion of animal research in the country. According to Nature News:
The amendments would, for example, forbid the use of nonhuman primates, dogs and cats in research, except in mandatory drug testing or when directly related to translational medicine. They would also forbid procedures that impose mild pain — such as injections — without anaesthesia.
The legislation further prohibits the use of animals in some research areas — such as xenotransplantation, in which cells and tissues are transplanted between species, and addiction. "It’s terrible," says Gaetano Di Chiara, a pharmacologist at the University of Cagliari, Sardinia. "Drug addiction is a major health issue, and it requires research with animals."
However, the law must maneuver a couple more obstacles before it is implemented, so there is a chance that it will never be enforced.
Still, this represents yet more evidence of a growing anti-scientific sentiment in Italy. Sixty-nine percent of Italians are afraid of electromagnetic radiation from cell phone towers, and some residents of Sicily believe that a U.S. satellite dish installation is causing cancer. In 2011, a ridiculous 94 percent of Italians rejected nuclear power in a referendum. And in 2012, Italy convicted six scientists of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake.
It's utterly amazing that Italy ranks #7 in the world in terms of scientific impact. One wonders how much longer that distinction will last.