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UK Environment Bill on hold again

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We continue to campaign for action for animals used in chemicals tests

Thanks so much to all of you who contacted your MP asking for support for an amendment to the Environment Bill currently under consideration in the UK parliament. Amongst other important policy areas, the Bill includes a section on the regulation of chemicals following the country’s departure from the European Union. Although the Bill has once again been put on hold, it is expected to return to parliament by the summer.

The UK government has repeatedly stressed that it will use Brexit as an opportunity to do more for animal protection, and this Bill is a real chance to see that commitment in action. Sadly, whilst the Bill carries over the undertaking we campaigned for in EU chemicals law that animal testing should be a last resort, ministers have rejected proposals to do more and set pro-active targets to drive the reduction and replacement of animal testing.

Speaking in the debate yesterday on the Bill, Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “My new clause 18 would require the setting of targets for the reduction and replacement of animal testing under REACH regulations. It has been estimated that, by mid-2019, tests had been performed on about 2.4 million animals. In the last reporting period, the UK used the highest number of animals in experiments of any country in Europe. Although the government have protected the animal testing as a last resort principle from REACH in the Bill, this is an opportunity to go further and demonstrate real leadership by setting targets to replace animal testing.

“Tests on animals are notoriously unreliable and are increasingly being questioned by science. The scientific advancement of non-animal tests and approaches allows us better to predict hazard and manage risk while avoiding or significantly reducing the use of tests on animals—all in a shorter timeframe, with fewer resources used. That is better for human health and animals. I therefore urge the Minister to look again at this important issue and support the new clause.”

Responding on behalf of government, Rebecca Pow MP commented that whilst she was personally sympathetic to the aims of Ms Lucas’ new clause, she was of the view that it was not necessary.

Our Director of Public Affairs, Kerry Postlewhite said: “We’re very grateful to Caroline, to the other cross-party MPs who added their names to the amendment and to Jonathan Edwards MP and Kerry McCarthy MP who spoke out in support. Whilst we are heartened that the Minister is sympathetic to our aim to reduce and replace animal testing for chemicals, we would respectfully disagree that spelling out the need for targets is not necessary. The Bill accepts in other policy areas that targets drive change. The dates attached to restrictions on animal testing for cosmetics in the EU did exactly that as companies were incentivised to put non-animal methods in place. The last resort principle is important but not always respected and not comparable with pro-actively saying we are going to commit to reduction and replacement targets. We will continue to work for this to be included on the face of this Bill.”

In the meantime, you can ask your MP to sign EDM256 for the acceleration of human-relevant science by using our quick and easy email here.