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MEPs condemn rise in animal experiments in UK

Animal experimentation rising as Government scrutiny decreases

Two leading MEPs have criticised the sharp rise in animal experiments in the UK announced by the Home Office yesterday. The number of animal experiments increased by 454,000 (14%) to 3.7 million experiments – the highest level in over 20 years.

Labour MEP David Martin and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP have been quick to join the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) in condemnation of the shocking rise.

The further revelation that, in 2008, the Home Office granted 16% more project licences to experiment on animals indicates that another significant rise in animal experimentation is taking place in laboratories right now.

The shock rise coincides with news that the Government has implemented the fast tracking of animal use licences. The Government’s report revealed a decrease in the number of inspections of animal laboratories and the number of inspectors.

The NAVS is concerned that the Home Office is dismantling certain controls at the very time Europe is reviewing new rules for animal experimentation and attempting to put replacement of animal use with advanced techniques at the heart of the revision of the Directive on animal experiments, which is currently before the Council of Ministers.

Caroline Lucas MEP: “The Home Office figures throw new light on the Government’s shocking failure to address the continued use of animals in experiments – despite increasing evidence that animal tests often fail to reliably predict human reactions, and that newer non-animal methods can offer greater accuracy and safety assurance.”

“The UK Government must take urgent action to reverse the trend highlighted in these latest figures and work towards replacing animal experiments with viable non-animal alternatives. We need Europe to establish a world-leading Centre of Excellence in non-animal research to speed up the development of new techniques, moving away from the era of animal research and bringing a new era of modern science without animal suffering.”

David Martin MEP: “Quite frankly I am shocked by these figures. We have just gone through a European Parliament election where one of the biggest issues in my mail bag was animal welfare and the reduction and abolition of testing, especially on primates. This is a moral issue. People want these experiments to end. This is an area where the UK should be leading Europe not increasing experiments. We now have alternatives to animal testing and they should be the way forward.”

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive NAVS: “The shocking truth revealed this week is there are more animal experiments with less scrutiny. The Home Office appears to have been modifying the authorisation process and reducing controls, including laboratory inspections, at precisely the time Europe is considering new rules on animal experiments. It had been hoped the UK would press to increase animal protection here and across Europe. Instead before this process is even concluded there are indicators that certain protection is already being dismantled in the UK.”

What’s happening in UK labs – what the figures tell us

3.7 million experiments were performed on animals in 2008.

Examples of animals used:

Primates: 4,598

Dogs: 6,105

Cats: 360

Mice: 2.4 million

Rats: 355,370

Rabbits: 17,060

Guinea pigs: 29,293

Horses: 9,365

Examples of how the animals are used:

Genetic modification: 1.3 million animals were genetically modified (37%), a rise of 186,000; mainly mice but with a huge increase in genetically modified fish, where numbers doubled.

Household product testing: After being at zero (or 1) for some years, there was a rise to 132 experiments on mice – especially disturbing since this coincides with the implementation of replacement tests for cosmetics across Europe.

Toxicology: 484,000 experiments were carried out for toxicology. 141,000 of these were not required by legislative requirements (29%) so did not have to be performed.

Academic research: The vast majority of animal experimentation now takes place in academic institutions with universities accounting for 44% or 1.6 million experiments. Commercial establishments, such as pharmaceutical companies, account for 36% or 1.3 million experiments. Fundamental (or basic) research with no immediate application to humans or animals accounted for 1.2 million experiments.

See the NAVS/ADI technical briefing on competitiveness of European science and industry

Find out more about about animal testing at National Anti-Vivisection Society

Find out more about alternatives at The Lord Dowding Fund For Humane Research

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