UK govt urged to cut animal experiments
This story corrects an earlier version which wrongly attributed quotes from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection to a House of Lords committee, and which was withdrawn.
LONDON - The British government should do more to find alternatives to experimenting on animals and ensure there is a balance between scientific needs and animal welfare, a parliamentary committee said this week.
In a report released as new data showed that more than 2.5 million animal experiments are carried out in Britain each year, the committee said a greater balance should be found between scientific needs and the care of animals.
\"Animal experiments are still needed, but more could be done to find new methods of research and testing which don\'t involve animals,\" Lord Smith, chairman of the House of Lords committee which wrote the report, said in a statement.
\"Our recommendations...should help to create a better balance between the legitimate needs of science and the care and welfare of animals.\"
Among its recommendations the report said the government should strive for the best possible regulation of animal testing, make sure it was \"properly enforced\", and urge the scientific community to step up the search for alternatives.
\"The development of scientifically valid non-animal systems of research and testing is important, not just to improve animal welfare, but to provide substantial benefits for human health,\" it said.
Data published by the government on Tuesday showed that animals - mostly rats, mice and other rodents - were used in more than 2.62 million scientific experiments last year, down 3.4 percent from 2000.
But experiments using genetically modified animals, again mostly mice, rose by 49,000 to 631,000 in 2001.
Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth praised the overall decline - which takes the number to record low levels - but said animal experiments were vital for medical research.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the decline in overall numbers was a victory for the search for alternatives.
\"This has primarily been achieved thanks to the use and development in medicines research of non-animal alternatives - an area where it is estimated that in Britain alone the pharmaceutical industry spends some 300 million pounds a year.\"
But animal rights activists said the figures were a disgrace.
\"We still have nearly three million animals undergoing painful and lethal experiments in the UK and some massive increases in the use of animals such as dogs, monkeys and genetically modified animals,\" said Wendy Higgins, spokeswoman for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
\"The statistics are a disgrace and the government should be ashamed of what they represent - a government that cares more about pandering to the whim of the vivisection industry than the welfare of the millions of animals it kills in UK laboratories year in year out.\"
The data show that 85 percent of scientific procedures on animals last year used rats, mice or other rodents, while fish or birds were used in 11 percent.
Dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates such as monkeys were used in less than one percent of experiments.
Sixty-three percent were for fundamental biological research and applied human and veterinary medicine. Seventeen percent of the experiments were for toxicological or safety tests on drugs.
British law states that a new drug has to be tested on at least two different species of live mammal. The use of animals for testing cosmetics was banned several years ago.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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