IMMEDIATE WEDNESDAY 24 JULY 2002
ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS ARE NECESSARY, BUT GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY SHOULD DO MORE TO DEVELOP NON-ANIMAL ALTERNATIVES
A Lords report published today by the Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures found that animal experiments are currently necessary to develop human and veterinary medicine, and to protect humans and the environment.
However, the report says that more should be done to fund and promote "alternative" methods known as the Three Rs − reduction, refinement and replacement. This is important for both human health and animal welfare. The Committee recommends setting up research units on the Three Rs integrated into existing centres of research excellence.
The report notes that while the UK has the tightest system of regulating animal experiments in the world, the regulations have become unnecessarily bureaucratic. The Committee makes recommendations to streamline the licensing process. This should help science and industry, while safeguarding animal welfare. The Committee considers that the UK should strive not for the tightest regulation, but for the best regulation, properly enforced.
The Committee recommends that good quality information on what animal experiments are done and why, should be made public. The report calls on the Government to repeal Section 24 (the "confidentiality clause") of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Smith of Clifton said:
"Animal experiments are still needed, but more could be done to find new methods of research and testing which don't involve animals. There is also too much bureaucracy which hampers scientific research and can harm animal welfare. Our recommendations, together with a much greater openness about what animal experiments are done and why, should help to create a better balance between the legitimate needs of science and the care and welfare of animals."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures conducted this inquiry, which began taking evidence in May 2001.
Baroness Richardson of Calow
Baroness Eccles of Moulton
Lord Smith of Clifton (Chairman)
Lord Hunt of Chesterton
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
Earl of Onslow
2. The report is published by The Stationery Office: Animals in Scientific Procedures, HL Paper 150I, ISBN 0 10 412102 5, price £13.00.
The text will be available via www.parliament.uk shortly after publication.
(There are also two volumes of evidence, which come separately.)
For orders call 0845 7024374.
3. According to the Home Office Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (2000) the total number of animals used in experiments in Great Britain has reduced by about half in the past 25 years. However, compared to 1999, the number of animal procedures in 2000 increased by 58,000 (2.2%) to 2.71 million.
4. Most procedures in 2000 were carried out on mice (59%), followed by rats (20%), fish (9%), birds (4.5 %), guinea pigs (2%), ungulates (hooved mammals) (2%) and rabbits (1.5%). Other figures include dogs (0.3%), non-human primates (such as monkeys) (0.13%) and cats (0.07%).
*The statistics for 2001 were published by the Home Office on 23 July 2002 after the Committee had agreed its report.
5. UK law states that any new drug has to be tested on at least two different species of live mammal. These are usually the rat and a large mammal such as a dog. The use of animals to test cosmetics has been banned in the UK since 1997.
6. Alternative methods of research include computer modelling, research using human and animal tissues in vitro (in test-tubes), use of data from human and animal patients and use of less sentient (less well-developed) species such as insects and micro-organisms.
Further information from:
Committee 020 7219 1228/5358
Press 020 7219 8659