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Animal Experiments

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many animals were used for experiments in 2002; and what plans he has to reduce that number. [108630]

The latest relevant figures are published in "Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals in Great Britain 2001", Cm 5581. A copy has been placed in the Library. These show that in 2001 the number of animals used for the first time in scientific procedures was 2.57 million. This is a reduction on the previous year, and the number of procedures concerned is the lowest since the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 came into force.Corresponding data for 2002 are currently being collated and analysed, with publication planned for later this year.Under the 1986 Act the Home Office licenses the use of animals for scientific purposes where there is no non-animal alternative, and then only when both the number of animals and their suffering is minimised. This reflects the principles of the 3Rs—replacement, reduction and refinement.

As the regulator of the use of live animals in scientific procedures the Home Office is demand-led—it has no control over the number of project licence applications which it receives. While we must seek to minimise the number of animals used in particular programmes of work, the Home Office cannot therefore influence the overall amount of animal research and testing which takes place—that is determined by many other factors, including the economic climate and global trends in scientific endeavour. There are current developments—such as advances in the use that can be made of genetically modified animals—which may lead in coming years to more rather than fewer animals being used overall.

The Government fully support and encourage development and promotion of the 3Rs in a number of ways, and additional impetus has been given to its efforts to that end by the related recommendations recently put forward by the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures. This is not, however, an area where quick gains can be expected. In the longer term we must rely for any further significant reduction in animal use largely on the scientific community's own continuing efforts to develop, validate and accept non-animal alternative methods.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his Written Statement of 20 January, Official Report, columns 1–2WS, on Animals (Scientific Procedures), when he expects to conclude his Department's consultations with the scientific community with a view to reaching a final decision on possible amendments to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. [108811]

The Government's response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures, published on 20 January 2003 (Cm 5729), announced plans to publish details of programmes of work authorised under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, subject to safeguards for personal and confidential information and also acknowledged the significant concern within the scientific community about the possible repeal of section 24 of the 1986 Act, the "confidentiality clause". We, therefore, also announced our intention to consult further with scientific stakeholders and animal protection groups about section 24 before reaching final decisions on its future.As part of this consultation, a joint working group with scientific stakeholders has been set up to look at these issues and met for the first time on 5 March 2003. Separate discussions will be held with animal protection groups. I expect to receive the findings of these discussions in the autumn and to consider the options for the future of section 24 later in the year.