Animals in Research May 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the use of animals in research and the related 'For Life On Earth' campaign and Early Day Motion (EDM) 373.

I am aware the Government has allowed B&K Universal to build a facility in Grimston, Yorkshire to breed beagles for use in animal experiments. I appreciate that EDM 373 draws attention to the life science sector's Concordat on openness in animal research which was launched in 2015 and provides new opportunities for transparency and debate in this area.

Animal experiments are regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. A license to undertake animal experiments is only granted where there is no alternative research technique and the expected benefits outweigh any possible adverse effects.

I am not opposed to animal testing in all cases and successive Governments have supported animal testing in certain clearly defined medical areas. I believe it is vital, however, that there is careful analysis of the scientific merits of animal testing. I also believe that where there is scientific evidence that alternative tests can demonstrate the safety or effectiveness of medicines to the same or greater extent than animal testing, then these should be used.

The previous Labour Government achieved much to end the cruel and unnecessary suffering of animals. For example, it introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006, secured an end to cosmetic testing on animals and banned the use of great apes in animal experiments. The previous Labour Government also established the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research which has invested over £45 million to support work to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research and testing.

During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government pledged to continue this work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. The latest figures show that in 2014, 3.87 million procedures were completed on animals in the UK. This is a reduction of 6% on 2013.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto included a commitment to work to accelerate development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing where appropriate. I believe the Government must work with the bioscience industry to ensure progress is made on this. Although advances in biomedical science provide opportunities to reduce reliance on use of animals, the Government believe carefully regulated use remains a vital tool in improving understanding of how biological systems work and in developing safe new medicines, treatments and technologies. I believe it is vital there is transparency around animal testing and that concerted efforts must be made to reduce animal suffering wherever possible.

I can assure you I will continue to follow this issue closely and bear in mind the points that you raise. Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.