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Budget a missed opportunity for UK life sciences

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Houses of Parliament

Tell your MP how important it is to end animal testing in the UK

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2024 Budget was a missed opportunity to build upon the positive news of plans to reduce animal testing in the UK and provide additional funding for research into non-animal testing methods announced last month.

Jeremy Hunt MP included new investment for cutting-edge green technologies and the Life Sciences sector in his speech, as well as innovative Research & Development, but failed to mention the plans to reduce the use of animals in UK science and to increase funding for non-animal testing methods, as were revealed by Science Minister Andrew Griffith MP, at February’s Westminster Hall e-petition debate on animal testing.

Leading in animal-free science would help to establish the UK as a global power in scientific innovation, and enable high-quality research relevant to the protection of human health and the environment.

Home Office statistics show that there were over 2.76 million uses of animals in laboratories in Great Britain in 2022. Around ten per cent of those are tests legally required by regulators in relation to assessing the safety or effectiveness of chemicals, medicines and other products.

But we believe we can do better than to rely on tests on animals – for example, despite tests which are meant to keep us safe, the pharmaceutical industry is in a silent crisis: 92% of drugs fail in clinical trials even though they passed extensive pre-clinical tests (including animal tests) which suggested that they were safe and effective.

Meanwhile non-animal methods, which can outperform traditional animal models, provide an opportunity to deliver better outcomes and bring an end to animal suffering in laboratories.

Our ‘Target Zero’ report sets out a proactive, targets-based action plan for the phase-out of animal testing, including practical, low-cost, concrete steps that any future government could take in its first term.

In addition, our Pledge Cruelty Free campaign calls for:

  • The government to create a plan to phase-out animal testing forever, with a minister dedicated to delivering this plan across all government departments; 
  • Homes to be made safer by modernising the system and removing animals from the testing of chemicals and ingredients that go into the products we use every day, such as clothes, household cleaning, furniture, electronic goods, paints and dyes, and food; and 
  • The UK’s 1998 ban on testing cosmetics on animals, covering ingredients used both predominantly and exclusively in cosmetics, to be fully reinstated and put into law, to protect it from being abandoned by future governments.

Our Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs, Dr Emma Grange, said: “The Budget spoke boldly of world-leading technologies, innovation, and R&D investment in our Life Sciences industry, but it yet again failed to provide funding to address the changes that we desperately need. Harnessing the possibilities of non-animal technology could truly make the UK a global leader and boost the economy at the same time. Unfortunately, the Budget made no mention of this burgeoning global industry.

“A greater increase in funding, in line with the levels for similar ground-breaking technologies in the UK, needs to be accompanied by incentives to encourage scientists, industry and regulators to move away from the use of animals. Without taking bold steps forward we will be condemned to never-ending small reductions rather than the transformative step forwards which is needed to meet the aspirations of the public. We hope that the expansion of Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire can help the area to become a hub for humane, human-relevant science and non-animal testing methods.”

Show your support for a Cruelty-Free UK by taking our Pledge – and find out how you can ask your MP to help kick animal testing out of our homes.