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Animal Experiments

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the minimum cage size is for a seven-year-old single rhesus macaque for use in scientific procedures for laboratory experimentation purposes; and for how many hours per day that minimum space is permissible; (149971)

(2) when she expects to announce a revision to the codes of practice to ensure that British laboratories are compliant with the new standards outlined in article 5 (guidelines for accommodation and care of animals) of the European convention for the protection of vertebrate animals used for experiment and other scientific purposes (ETS No. 123); and if she will make a statement;

(3) whether there are rules governing (a) space requirements and (b) use of restraints for animals during animal experimentation.

[holding answer 16 July 2007]: The weight of a seven-year-old rhesus macaque would typically be between 6 and 9kg. For an animal of that weight the Home Office code of practice for the housing and care of animals used in scientific procedures specifies an enclosure with a minimum floor area of 14,000 sq cm and with a height of at least 1.5 metres, if singly housed, and per animal if housed, as is usual, in groups. These minima are often exceeded in practice, particularly if animals have to be singly housed, or if they weigh more than 9kg, for which animals the code of practice gives no specific provision. The code of practice does not specify the time for which access to additional space must be provided. However the majority of primates are kept in grouped housing or, if they have to be singly housed, are allowed access to larger exercise enclosures during the working day.

We aim to publish a revised code of practice to take account of the guidelines set out in the revised appendix A to the Council of Europe convention for the protection of vertebrate animals used for experiment and other scientific purposes (ETS 123) in 2008, after the requirements for consultation and parliamentary scrutiny have been met.

The United Kingdom Government played an active part in producing the revised Council of Europe guidelines and began the process of ensuring their adoption in the United Kingdom well before they were finally agreed in June 2006. Implementation of the guidelines is not dependent on the publication of a revised UK code of practice and is being achieved more quickly and more effectively through the day to day contact between our inspectors and the scientific community.

All animals used in procedures licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 must be housed in accordance within the cage and pen dimensions in the Home Office code of practice for the housing of animals in designated breeding and supplying establishments. Any form of restraint applied for an experimental or other scientific purpose that may cause pain suffering distress or lasting harm may be applied only as part of a programme of work specified in a project licence issued under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. There must be adequate scientific justification for the use of restraint, it must be the least degree of restraint necessary to achieve the scientific objectives and it must be applied for the shortest period of time to achieve those objectives.