Statesman - Wendy Higgins
on animals have reached the three million mark for the first time in 16
years, a shocking rise of 54% since Labour came to power argues the Dr Hadwen
Trust Despite the now tired refrain from government that Britain has some
of the strictest vivisections rules in the world, we experiment on more
animals than any other EU member state - scarcely a record to be proud of.
In 1996 Labour's pre-election animal policy manifesto, New Labour: New Life
for Animals, symbolised for many a government in waiting ready to make a
real difference for animals. But eleven years on, little more than early
token gestures has been achieved with arguably minimal impact.
of Labour's initiatives on ending animal experiments fizzled out after 1999
and in any case they largely halted tests that were either virtually finished
in Britain anyway, such as cosmetics and tobacco product testing or great
ape research. In a new report, Animals in Laboratories: Let Down By Labour,
the Dr Hadwen Trust has revealed the total known number of animals saved
due to these government initiatives are an estimated 2,236 each year. In
fact, far from heralding a 'new life' for animals in labs, we've actually
seen a massive increase in experiments since Labour came to power in 1997,
from 2.1 million to 3.2 million. The number of military animal experiments
conducted at the Ministry of Defence's Porton Down facility has also virtually
doubled. So what went wrong?
that numbers have continued to spiral because of a lack of overall strategy
by the government. Labour had the opportunity in 1997 to implement a sea-change
in attitude on animal research, root and branch reform that would have set
us on a path of replacing outdated and unreliable animal methods with advanced,
modern non-animal techniques. Instead it chose a handful of one-off headline-grabbing
symbolic gestures so that after a short-lived flurry, Labour's action for
laboratory animals was exhausted and eleven years on we have on average
532,239 more animals being used in British labs than in 1997.
record on investment to develop the sort of cutting-edge non-animal techniques
that will replace animal use into the future, has also been lamentable.
We calculate 2006 government funding for non-animal replacement research
(excluding research on refining existing animal models) across the National
Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research
(NC3Rs) and government departments) was a mere £1,173,606. That's
only marginally higher than the amount spent by those voluntary sector organisations
dedicated to alternatives research, including the Dr Hadwen Trust.
any doubt we can have a more humane and compassionate science that dispenses
with animal experiments, if we are willing to truly prioritise it. The government
must now pledge its active support for a national, strategic approach to
achieving replacement for the benefit of people and animals alike.