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Animal Experiments

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with scientific bodies on alterative methods of research to bring about a reduction in the number of primates used in experiments; and if he will make a statement. (97508)

Non-human primates are afforded special protection under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and there are stringent requirements regarding their use for experimental and other scientific purposes. The Act provides that non-human primates can only be used when animals of no other species are suitable for the purposes of the programme specified in the licence, or that it is not practicable to obtain animals of any other species that are suitable for those purposes.

In addition to discussions with individual users and consideration of advice arising from the broadly-based independent Animal Procedures Committee, within the UK we have an ongoing dialogue with professional bodies, funding bodies, regulators, animal welfare groups, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) and others to discuss all aspects of replacement, reduction and refinement.

Internationally we are represented on the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) Scientific Advisory Board; we have co-sponsored the 4th and 5th World Congress on Alternatives, and are involved in the organisation of the 6th World Congress; and we are represented on the European Standards Organisation (CEN) and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) technical committees concerned with setting the animal welfare standards to be implemented within ISO testing programmes.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the objectives of his Department will be during the review of European Directive 86/609 on animal experimentation. (98337)

[holding answer 30 October 2006]: Our principal objective during the review of European Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes will be to ensure that any revised directive provides for the efficient and effective regulation of animal experimentation that properly balances the protection of animals and the legitimate needs of science and industry.

More specifically, we will aim to support improvements to the regulation of animal use which focus on key areas where regulation and harmonisation would improve animal welfare; improve scientific outputs; provide a more level playing field within the European Union; and improve the European Union's competitiveness with other economic regions without compromising science and welfare.

We do not believe that wholesale changes to the directive are necessary to achieve the main benefits sought of harmonisation and animal welfare. In general, we believe that the directive has stood the test of time well and still provides a sound framework for regulation. It has proved flexible enough to adapt to change in many areas and to incorporate technical progress.