The RSPCA is calling on the Government to ensure more is done to reduce the use and suffering of animals in research and testing, following a Home Office announcement that the number of animals used in experiments has topped 3.5 million for the second year running.
The RSPCA is calling on the Government to ensure more is done to reduce the use and suffering of animals in research and testing.
This follows the announcement by the Home Office yesterday (July 27) that despite a marginal decrease compared to 2008, the number of animals used in experiments has topped 3.5 million for the second year running.
RSPCA senior scientist Barney Reed said: “All too predictably, the number of animals used in experiments in the UK has remained over 3.5 million. The public is repeatedly told that animals are only used where ‘absolutely necessary’ and that the UK has the ‘tightest regulations in the world’.
“It is difficult to reconcile these statements with [yesterday’s] news that more scientific procedures are being carried out on animals in the UK now than at almost any time since the current laws on animal experiments came into force more than 20 years ago.”
Reducing numbers is an essential goal, but reducing suffering is just as important while animal use continues. Improvements are being made in the way animals are cared for and in the way experimental procedures are undertaken, but much more needs to be done.
Mr Reed added: “The coalition government has pledged to reduce the number of animals used in research but has so far not announced any new strategy or actions that will actually achieve this. Over the coming weeks and months people will be watching to see whether there is any genuine commitment to reducing numbers and suffering.
“The Government has also reiterated its intention to ban the use of animals in household product testing. This may sound good but in fact no animals were used for this purpose last year. Such a move will therefore impress no-one and will be considered as mere window-dressing unless it is followed by more substantial action and progress in the areas where tens of thousands of animals continue to suffer.
“Without renewed support for the development and use of humane alternative methods, the number of animals used in UK laboratories is likely to remain high.”
According to the RSPCA, the public expects there to be tough controls on animal experiments given the suffering they can cause. However, current UK laws are under threat from a combination of new EU legislation and a Government drive for “reduced regulation” and budget cuts. This could lead to a weakening of UK laws, less protection for animals, fewer official inspections of laboratories and reduced funding for research into alternative humane methods.
Mr Reed concluded: “It is essential this new Government respects public concerns for the suffering of animals in laboratories and doesn’t find excuses for weakening our animal experiment laws. If they fail to maintain and improve current UK standards, both animal welfare and UK science will suffer.”