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18/07/2011 - Government Prepares to Weaken Law as Animal Experiments Hit Record High

A step back for lab animals

The RSPCA is challenging the government to prove it has a genuine commitment to reducing the numbers and suffering of animals in laboratories.

This follows the announcement by the Home Office on Wednesday 13th July that the number of scientific procedures using animals has topped 3.7million for the first time since the current law came into force in 1986. Worryingly, this figure includes a 10% increase in the numbers of procedures using primates such as marmosets.

RSPCA senior scientist Barney Reed said: “Despite consistently being told that experiments using animals are only ever undertaken „where absolutely necessary‟, we‟ve seen an astonishing 37 per cent increase in animal use over the last decade. Much of this increase is due to the creation and use of genetically altered animals, which can cause suffering not only to these animals, but also to the animals used to produce them.”

The public expects tough controls

“The public expects there to be tough controls on animal experiments, given the suffering they can cause. Unbelievably, it looks as though the Government is preparing to dismantle our current law and replace it with a system which could offer animals a lot less protection. It doesn‟t make any sense.”

“Those representing scientists and industry often try to reassure the public by claiming that the UK has the „strictest regulations in the world‟. Ironically, some of these same people are now lobbying for the law to be watered down.”

The Home Office is currently consulting on how it should implement the requirements of a new European directive on animal experiments. The directive falls short of UK standards in many areas, including reduced government and local controls on animal use.

Despite having the freedom to maintain our standards where they are higher, there is little convincing evidence that the UK Government will choose to do so.

Lab animals could suffer severe pain

Barney said: “A watered-down law could mean laboratory animals in the UK being allowed to suffer „long-lasting, unalleviated, severe pain, suffering or distress‟, it could allow some animals such as dogs to be kept in even smaller housing, and some UK laboratories may not be visited by Home Office officials for years at a time - this is simply unacceptable.”

The RSPCA is concerned that the coalition government has pledged to reduce the number of animals used in research, but has so far failed to announce any new strategy or meaningful actions that will actually achieve this. Without renewed support for the development and use of humane alternative methods in all areas, the number of animals used in UK laboratories is likely to remain high.”

The RSPCA is calling on the public to support its campaign to stop the Government taking a step back for animal welfare. To find out how you can help, visit www.giveanimalsavoice.org.uk.

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