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Animal Experiments in the UK

The UK conducts tests on animals more than any other nation in Europe. Every single minute of the day 8 animals die in British laboratories.    

Great Britain drugs, poisons, kills and autopsies more than 11,000 individual living creatures every day of the year.  

New chemical, medical, safety, agricultural and defence products are all subject to testing by law before they’re considered safe enough for application in the human environment.  Technological solutions are increasingly available to this dilemma, such as replacing animals with digital simulations or lab grown cell cultures. Although for some of the required tests there are already non-animal alternatives available, even the most optimistic developers consider these advances decades away from offering a substitute for all the tests that are required by law. In that sense, some people would say that the choice is simple – accept some animal testing or live without new drugs, pesticides or industrial chemicals.

However, much more could be done by the UK government to speed up an end to the use of animals. For example:

•    putting measures in place to actively divert its funding away from outdated animal tests and towards human-relevant alternatives

•    increase funding via industry-linked initiatives such as a reduced taxation incentive

In February 2014, we welcomed the Coalition Government’s plan aimed at delivering its election pledge to reduce the use of animals in scientific research.  Although the delivery plan acknowledged the failings of animal research which was encouraging, it failed to set any numerical targets or a timetable.  This effectively removed the urgency from the need to research, develop and validate non-animal alternative testing methods.  Although the document does encourage scientists to use alternatives wherever possible, the emphasis appears to be on justifying the use of animals and promoting the UK’s research, rather than achieving the main objective of reducing the use of animals.

Meaningful progress will only be made towards fully replacing animals by encouraging renewed energy and greater investment into developing non-animal alternative testing methods. These sophisticated scientific methods will be more reliable, take less time and money to complete, and are actually relevant to human health.

With so much at stake, you might imagine that experiments using animals in the UK are closely regulated, highly efficient, carefully planned and provide for animals’ welfare. And you’d be wrong.

We tested on and killed over 4,000,000 (4 million!) animals in Britain in 2015. This was around 52,000 more than in 2013, and a 60% increase since 2000 - despite a government commitment to reduce the number. The quality and value of the testing that takes place must be examined. And myths that we use animals only where necessary, and only under the strictest standards, must be dismissed.

Left unchecked, the appetite for using animals in British laboratories shows no sign of diminishing. As our animal experiments campaign clearly shows, there’s much, much more we can all do to help reduce animal suffering in laboratories. Eventually, the use of animals in barbaric and outdated experiments will end, but it’s essential that pressure is maintained.