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Experiments On Living Animals

Volume 648: debated on Thursday 9 November 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many inspectors are now employed under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, to enforce the provisions of that Act relating to experiments on living animals; and whether he will appoint additional inspectors in view of the increase in such experiments in recent years.

My right hon. Friend recently decided to increase the number of inspectors from five to six, and a competition is in progress to fill the additional post.

Is the Minister aware that when this Act came into force in 1876 two inspectors were appointed and at that time there were about 300 experiments a year on live animals? Now that there are about 3½million experiments a year, does he not think that rather more than six inspectors are needed to enforce the standards laid down by Parliament?

The increase in these experiments—although there is an overall increase—is in the form of standard experiments very largely to ensure the purity of medicines which are not allowed to be tested chemically but have to be tested biologically under the Orders of this House under the Therapeutic Substances Act. Many of these are routine experiments in the sense that they are mere injections and not surgery. Provided that the system is properly enforced and properly inspected, as it is, the mere fact that we do not have proportionately the same number of inspectors as we had in the last century need not cause the hon. Member too much disturbance.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is quite an amount of concern among people who are not anti-vivisectionists on this subject? Will he undertake that the inspectors responsible for issuing licences and supervising establishments in which experiments on animals are carried out assure themselves that such experiments are not repetitive and are necessary in order to increase and improve medical science and knowledge?

Yes, certainly. I know that there is anxiety. Most of the anxiety, I think, is due to some ignorance of what these experiments are. I can certainly give the undertaking for which my hon. Friend asks.

Will my hon. and learned Friend take it from me that the ignorance on this matter is not completely on one side, and that there is great feeling in the country that there is inadequate inspection? Frankly, it would pay a very large dividend in public opinion if he did something about this matter.

We are appointing another inspector, but we have certainly listened to what my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have said this afternoon.