Minister highlights need for UK to lead in development of non-animal methods
Yesterday, members of parliament met to discuss our Target Zero petition calling for a government plan to accelerate the transition to animal free research and testing in the UK.
Over 84,000 of you have so far signed the petition we tabled with Animal Free Research UK and OneKind which will remain open for signatures until 7th January 2022.
The debate was led by Martyn Day MP who highlighted that whilst the Government had taken significant steps to recognise that animals are sentient, millions of animals continue to suffer in experiments in the UK annually. On the Government's insistence that scientific research using animals was vital to understanding biological systems, Day said that evidence increasingly shows that non-animal methods are superior and criticised the lack of leadership by government to drive the reduction and replacement of experiments on animals.
Shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Fleur Anderson MP said that the scientific community should not be allowed to continue with animal testing practices for "lack of ever being questioned about it." She expressed concern over the lack of transparency around animal testing, as well as the permissibility of severe suffering as defined in UK law. She concluded that modernising medical research with non-animal methods would also deliver major benefits for people, animals and the economy.
Shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs, Ruth Jones MP said that the Opposition would be encouraging Ministers to go further and put in place plans to eliminate animal testing, calling for a guarantee that every effort was being made to reduce the suffering of animals in research. While acknowledging that some saw animal testing as a "necessary evil," she said that as times changed, so too did views and our behaviour must change as well.
Scottish MPs, Margaret Ferrier and Patricia Gibson both highlighted recent polling undertaken by YouGov for Cruelty Free International showing clear support from residents of Scotland for a phase-out strategy with targets and timetables.
Replying to the debate on behalf of the Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, George Freeman MP agreed that moral and legal considerations were at the heart of this debate and that recognising sentience conferred additional responsibilities. He said the life science sector was undergoing a "quiet revolution" in which the traditional model of drug discovery was being transformed by genomics and informatics.
On the development of alternative methods, he said that this was a huge sector with potential for UK leadership. He said that the UK should use its post-Brexit freedoms to regulate in these areas of technology to build consumer and investor confidence.
Our Director of Public Affairs, Kerry Postlewhite, said: “Thank you to everyone who has so far signed our Target Zero petition enabling us to get this important issue on to the agenda of parliament. We will do everything we can to keep it there and to achieve change for animals. Thank you so much to all the MPs who spoke – we look forward to continuing to work with you for change. Although we would have wanted the Minister to acknowledge that the time has come for a paradigm shift in policy, we do welcome his comments that the UK should be a leader in non-animal methods and hope that this will be cemented with more government funding and infrastructure support.”