More than 70 medical organisations and companies in Britain have pledged to be more open about their use of animals in scientific experiments.

The Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, which covers activities in the UK, has been signed by 72 organisations based in Britain and overseas, including pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, more than 20 British universities and The Medical Council.

The pledge came after talks involving scientists, universities, medical charities, drug firms and the public.

Geoff Watts, who chaired the steering group that drew up the agreement, said: “This widespread support for openness demonstrates the change in attitude we have seen from the life science sector over the past few years.”

Opinion polls show Britons broadly support the use of animals in experiments, but under strict conditions and only when there is no alternative. More than three-quarters agreed with it for medical purposes, providing the welfare of the animals was given high priority.

But about a fifth were unhappy about the use of animals in research, and many say they would like to know more about what goes on in laboratories where animal experiments are conducted.

More than 4 million experiments were carried out on animals in Britain in 2012, the vast majority of them (74%) on mice.

The concordat obliges signatories to “be clear about when, how and why” animals are used, and enhance communications with the media and the public about such work.

It also commits them to being “proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals” and report each year on progress and experiences.

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