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‘A missed opportunity for the millions of animals suffering in UK laboratories’: the BUAV responds to Government announcement on its reduction pledge for animal experiments

07/02/2014

The BUAV has responded with disappointment to the announcement made today by the Home Office Minister, on the Government’s strategy to reduce the numbers of animals used in experiments.  

In its Programme for Government (May 2010), the Coalition Government pledged to ‘end the testing of household products on animals and work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research’

The BUAV’s CEO, Michelle Thew, said: “This is a whitewash and shows that the Government has in reality given up on what it promised to do and that is to reduce the number of animal experiments. This broken promise is a missed opportunity for the Government to make meaningful and lasting change for the millions of animals that are suffering in UK laboratories.”

The document which has been published this morning “Working to reduce the use of animals in scientific research” contains no specific details of how a reduction will be achieved.

The last point in the Delivery Plan is “promoting an understanding and awareness about the use of animals where no alternatives exist” which brings into question whether this document is a serious attempt at reduction or an effort to justify the failure of the past three years.

The Government has been talking about bringing about the promised reduction through the National Centre for the 3Rs for more than three years, without any decrease in animal experiment numbers. If this document is the basis for a future reduction, then it is difficult to see any outcome except more animals needlessly suffering in British laboratories.

The BUAV is extremely disappointed that stronger measures have not been introduced to reduce the numbers of animals used in experiments.  The number of experiments carried out now stands at the highest level since the current regime was introduced in 1986. In the three year period, since the Programme for Government, the numbers have continued to rise, with a peak of over four million animals used in 2012. 

In 2012, the BUAV set out a roadmap for reduction with a set of clear proposals suggested to the Government which would ensure a significant drop in the use of animals in experiments.  The BUAV’s proposals include a ban on the use of cats and dogs in research and an end to the use of animals for all non-medical testing. 

A recent IPSOS MORI Poll in October 2013 revealed the public unease regarding animal testing. It found that members of the public supported the use of CCTV in laboratories and called for far more inspectors, than the current 20, to deal with over four million experiments. 

The conclusions of the recently published Brown Report (set up following the BUAV investigation at Imperial College London, one of the world’s leading universities) that Imperial College ‘…lacks adequate leadership, management, operational, training, supervisory and ethical review systems to support high standards in animal use and welfare’ does little to reassure the public. 

ENDS

For further information please contact Sarah Dickinson 0207 619 6978 / 07850 510 955

Notes:

In 2012, over 4.11 million experiments were started on animals, an increase of 8% (+317,200 experiments) compared with 2011. This figure is equivalent to beginning 11,260 experiments every day. However, this figure fails to include the many more millions of animals who are bred for research purposes but killed before being used because, for example, they are surplus to requirements. So, the total number of animals used by the research industry is much higher.

There was a large increase in the use of non-human primates (+22%) and animals with genetic modifications (+22%), who are bred speculatively to include harmful genes but are often killed without being used at all. 

There were increases in 2012 since 2011 in the numbers of experiments for the following species: mice (+ 379,058, up +14%); sheep (+5,157, up +14%); goats (+1,462, up +746%), up from 196; guinea pigs (+1,203, up +10%); and non- human primates (+545, up +22%).