I have long believed that the UK should lead the world with high animal welfare standards and I am proud that the UK banned cosmetics testing on animals in 1997 and extended this to cosmetic ingredients in 1998.
It is welcome that animal testing practices have improved and advanced greatly over recent years and non-animal methods for research have also developed and improved over time. However, I remain concerned at the lack of transparency around animal testing project licence applications, as well as the continued permissibility of ‘severe’ suffering as defined in UK law.
I believe we should consider a comprehensive review of animal testing, with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency, with a long-term objective to phase out animal testing entirely.
I believe we should look to end the permittance of ‘severe’ suffering as defined in UK legislation, as well as contributing to the development and validation of non-animal research methods and technologies and encouraging research in the field.
The Government has set out its view that animal testing remains a vital tool in improving understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease and in the development of new medicines, treatments and technologies.
The Government says it is committed to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system which ensures that animal research is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists and under controls which keep suffering to a minimum, and also committed to the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in research, known as the 3Rs.
However, I don’t believe that the UK’s current policy takes into account the serious concerns raised by members of the scientific community about the efficacy and validity of animal testing.
These members of the scientific community include scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry, the Editor in Chief of the British Medical Journal, and the US-based National Cancer Institute, which says that cures for cancer have been lost because studies in rodents have been believed. The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that 9 out of 10 new medicines fail to pass human trials because animals cannot predict responses in humans.
We must always ensure that Government policy is in line with the scientific consensus, especially when it comes to developing essential medicines, which is why I have written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, and asked him to support a scientific hearing into animal testing.
I have posted a copy of this letter below for you to see.