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Animals (Scientific Procedures)

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2012

The “Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals—Great Britain—2011” (HC 345), was laid before the House today. Copies are available in the Vote office.

This annual statistical report meets the requirement in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to inform Parliament about the licensed use of animals for experimental or other scientific purposes. It also forms the basis for meeting periodic reporting requirements at EU-level. Supplementary information with additional tables is also available on the Home Office website.

The 2011 statistical report shows that there were just over 3.79 million scientific procedures, which represents an increase of 2% over 2010. An increase in the use of fish accounts for the majority of the overall increase. Breeding of genetically modified (GM) animals and harmful mutants (HM), mainly mice, remained stable, accounting for 1.62 million procedures. A number of factors, such as investment in research and development and strategic funding priorities, determine the overall level of scientific procedures.

The Home Office, as regulatory authority under the 1986 Act, ensures that its provisions are rigorously applied and only authorises work that is scientifically justified and minimises the numbers of animals used and the animal suffering that may be caused.

The statistical report and supplementary information can be found at:

I am pleased to inform the House that I have also today placed in the Library the annual report of the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit for the year 2011. Publication of the report honours a commitment given in response to a recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures in July 2002 that more information should be made available about the implementation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

As in previous years, the report explains how the Home Office regulates the use of animals under the 1986 Act. It provides information about cases of non-compliance and infringements of ASPA and the outcomes of those cases. It also records progress with the adoption of European directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and with the delivery of the coalition agreement commitments to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and to end the testing of household products on animals.

The commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research is being delivered through a science-led programme headed by the United Kingdom’s National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). As the annual report explains, the national centre is closely involving many others in this delivery and the programme is focusing on refinement as well as reduction and replacement and is coordinating action to minimise and reduce animal use and suffering. Reducing the use of animals in scientific procedures is an ambitious goal, which requires significant innovation from across the UK’s science, mathematics and engineering base. The NC3Rs has pioneered a first-class science-led programme which not only provides opportunities to replace and reduce animal use but also to refine the welfare of those animals which continue to be used (principles commonly known as the 3Rs).

A key component of the NC3Rs strategy is CRACK IT, the world’s first open innovation programme focusing on the 3Rs, which was launched last September by the NC3Rs to foster a more collaborative approach between scientists in industry, universities and the SME sector. Through CRACK IT, the NC3Rs has already awarded £3.5 million in projects which will reduce reliance on animal models for the safety testing of drugs, chemicals and consumer products and provide novel tools for the discovery of new medicines for serious diseases such as bipolar disorder. This is in addition to the £3.3 million in grants that the NC3Rs has awarded in 2011 to some of the UK’s best scientists to replace, reduce and refine animal use.

The NC3Rs is also committed to supporting the development and training of the research leaders of the future. In December 2011, it announced funding for 15 PhD studentships in areas such as burn injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, and in May 2012 it awarded the first prestigious David Sainsbury fellowships, a new scheme to attract exceptional junior scientists to research which focuses on reducing animal use and improving animal welfare.

These activities are complemented by the NC3Rs’ work with major stakeholders in the bioscience sector including the research funding bodies, industry and regulatory agencies. The NC3Rs continues to review all grant applications for the Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Wellcome Trust involving the use of cats, dogs, horses or non-human primates. This enables the NC3Rs to identify further opportunities to reduce animal use.

Importantly, the NC3Rs has continued to provide a forum for pharmaceutical companies to share data to identify new ways to reduce their use of animals. Data sharing facilitated by the NC3Rs has led to reductions in the use of rodents and non-human primates in drug discovery and development, and other areas of safety testing.

Most recently, the NC3Rs has launched its new evaluation framework, the first ever attempt to benchmark systematically the impact of 3Rs programmes. As well as enabling robust evaluation of the centre’s work to replace, reduce and refine animal use, the evaluation framework has the potential to complement the Home Office annual statistics of scientific procedures on living animals and become a barometer of the application of the 3Rs in the UK.