A parliamentary debate, secured by Henry Smith MP, which took place on February 5th covered a wide range of issues relating to Government policy on animal experimentation. MPs from all parties took part in the debate, expressed concern that despite a pledge in the Coalition’s Programme for Government to work towards reduction, 3.7 million animals were used in Great Britain in 2011, the highest figure since 1986.
The Government’s recent ‘Mid-Term Review’ appeared to suggest that reduction was no longer a priority. Home Office Minister Mark Harper MP said cautiously that the pledge was “ambitious” and warned that there would be no “quick fix”. The BUAV has been leading calls for a reduction strategy to be published, and Parliamentary motions backing the call have gained the support of over 200 MPs since the 2010 election.
MPs also pressed for clarity on the promised ban on testing of household products on animals and relaxation of the secrecy surrounding animal experiments in Britain. Successive governments have been considering the issues for eight years, but Ministers continue to put off making decisions. The Minister responding to the debate, Mark Harper, was unable to say whether a commitment by the previous Coalition Minister to include testing on household ingredients would be kept.
Henry Smith MP said: “This is an issue which I and a lot of my constituents and other Members of Parliament care deeply about, and I was pleased to be able to raise these important points in Parliament today. I hope that the Government was listening carefully to what was said and comes back with firm proposals setting out how it will fulfil the pledge of working towards a reduction in the number of animals used in experiments.”
BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew commented, “We are very grateful to Henry Smith and other supportive MPs for pressing for more action. We have been dismayed at the interminable delays over these issues in the last two and a half years. We have made constructive suggestions to the Government to help fulfil its pledge to reduce the high number of animals suffering in UK laboratories. It is unacceptable that numbers continue to rise unchecked, while the Government dithers over the definition of a household product and how to introduce transparency into the system. The underlying message has seemed to be that Ministers do not consider it a priority to reduce the number of animal experiments, or even to have a coherent policy at all.”