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Proposed government review must be about how not whether we end UK animal testing

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Media reports over the weekend suggest that UK Government Ministers have tasked officials to find ways to end animal experiments.

The news comes just days after the release of data on the number of experiments on animals in the UK in 2020. The figures showed that nearly three million - 2.88 million experiments - were completed on animals, with 86,000 of these officially classed as causing “severe” suffering to the animals involved. 

Some of the experiments reported took place despite the existence of accepted non-animal methods; for example, the 68,108 experiments on mice for botulinum toxin batch testing for botox products. In this horrific test, mice have the toxin injected into their bellies and over the next three days become increasingly paralysed. Up to half of the mice per test die. The rest are all killed at the end despite there being a cell-based test that should be used instead.

Whilst we warmly welcome the statement by a government spokesperson that the UK is "determined to replace the use of animals in science", the figures – time and again the highest in Europe – suggest we need more than determination and like-for-like replacement.

Our Director of Public Affairs, Kerry Postlewhite, said: “We work day in day out to bring animal experiments to an end – engaging with decision-makers and regulators and building a base of undercover footage, including the recent LPT and Vivotecnia cases, that shows the reality of life for animals in laboratories. It’s heartening to see that the UK Government recognises the unprecedented opportunity we have to leave animal testing in the past where it belongs and to usher in an era of kinder and more effective human-relevant research and safety assessment.

“However, it is crucial that any government review be based from the get-go on the need for an ambitious roadmap that has at its heart a clear and unambiguous commitment to ending animal experiments. There must be no waiting for non-animal methods to eventually be adopted, but instead concrete and ambitious plans to drive and invest in change.

“By committing to a determined strategic phase-out of animal research, the Government will also cement the UK’s place as one of the world’s leading scientific players and set a model for others to follow.” 

Public opposition to animal experiments has consistently been high for many years. A YouGov survey carried out for Cruelty Free International in May showed that in Wales, 8 out of 10 adults believe that alternatives to animal testing should be a funding priority in the UK for science and innovation, 83% find it is unacceptable to use animals for experiments when non-animal methods are available, and a majority (70%) are in favour of setting deadlines for phasing out animal tests.

Help us send a clear signal to the UK government by signing and sharing our #TargetZero petition to urge Minsters to recognise the urgent need to use animal-free science and publish a clear and forward-looking action plan with timetables and milestones to accelerate an end to animal experiments.