Successive governments have supported animal testing in certain clearly defined medical areas. It is vital, however, that there is careful analysis of the scientific merits of animal testing. 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.
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.
The previous Labour Government achieved much to end the cruel and unnecessary suffering of animals, for example by introducing the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The previous Labour Government also secured an end to cosmetic testing on animals and had a proud record on international animal welfare, banning the use of great apes in animal experiments.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government pledged to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and in February 2014, published its delivery plan on how it intended to achieve this. The Coalition Government stated a commitment, where possible, to replace animal use, reduce the number of animals used and refine the procedures involved so as to find additional ways to minimise suffering. I support this approach.
However, animal testing actually increased under the Coalition Government. The latest figures show that in 2013, 4.12 million scientific procedures were started on animals in Britain, an increase of 11,600 from 2012. The 2012 total was in itself the highest number of animal experiments in Britain for 25 years.
The 2015 Conservative manifesto included a commitment to work to accelerate the global development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing where appropriate.
The current Government needs to listen to the concerns raised by the For Life On Earth campaign and examine why the number of animal experiments has increased in recent years and work with the bioscience industry to ensure that progress is made on this. It is important that there is transparency on the use of animal testing and that concerted efforts are made to reduce animal suffering.