I take animal welfare very seriously and recognise that animal
testing is an extremely controversial issue. I have, therefore, thought long and hard
about my position and tried to form my view from an objective assessment of the facts
The use of
primates in animal testing
unjustified animal testing
Cosmetics and Domestic
Humans and animals have evolved from a common ancestor and there
persist remarkable similarities between the functioning of their body systems and ours. These similarities explain why over one third of
the veterinary medicines that are used to treat animals are the same as, or very similar
to, those used to treat human patients.
While there is some evidence that computer modelling and
virtual organs can be used to simulate some physiological processes, thereby
reducing the need for testing on animals, it is thought that some degree of animal
experimentation will always be necessary, firstly in order to validate these models and
check that they accurately replicate real life, but also because there remain very many
processes that are not yet understood.
It is important to remember that some of the major medical
advances have depended on the use of animals in medical research and testing. These include antibiotics, anaesthetics, vaccines,
insulin for diabetes, open heart surgery, kidney dialysis and transplants, treatments for
asthma, leukaemia and high blood pressure.
Research can only be justified if it would save more suffering
than it would inflict. The examples above
demonstrate that significant human suffering can be prevented through the drugs developed
with the help of animal tests. However, it is
vitally important that each case is closely monitored to ensure that the use of animals is
scrutinised and justified.
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I support the Governments approach to animal testing,
which is based on the principle of the 3Rs, which state that animal tests should be
replaced with alternatives where they exist, reduced wherever possible and refined to
minimise any pain and suffering.
In May 2004, the Government announced that a National Centre for
the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research would be established with
Government funding. The Centre facilitates the
promotion, development and implementation of the 3Rs in the UK and reports to the Science
Minister once a year. I welcomed this
move at the time of the announcement and you can read more of my response by clicking here.
Although I support the Governments approach to the issue,
I have pressed Ministers to improve the scrutiny of license applications so that each case
is considered carefully on its merits and also called for more information to be available
to the public so that these decisions are transparent.
To reflect the views I have outlined above, I signed two
EDMs in March 2006 :
which supports the Pro-Test demonstration in Oxford and the construction of the new animal
testing laboratory there.
which welcomes the report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics called The Ethics
of Research Involving Animals.
You can read the texts of both EDMs by clicking on the above
links. You can read the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report by clicking
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use of primates in animal testing:
In 1997, the Government confirmed it would not permit any great
apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans) to be used in any medical research. I wholly support this move as well as the law that
higher mammals, including primates, can only be used when research is justified and no
other species is suitable. I have also
supported the campaign of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to stop
primates being used as pets.
However, I am not completely opposed to experiments on all
primates. While I agree that it is precisely
their similarity to humans that can make primates' suffering so severe, it is this
similarity that is the reason why testing on monkeys is used in medical research. There are four areas of human health where this
similarity is particularly important in research: vaccines, women's health, brain diseases
and safety testing (i.e. of medicines before they are given to human volunteers).
I was therefore been unable to sign EDM 1704, tabled in February
2006, which calls for the Government to extend the ban on using great apes in medical
research to all primates.
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Around three-quarters of the research involving primates is done
for safety testing of new medicines. The
extent to which animals can help filter inappropriate drugs is demonstrated in a table
from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on animal testing.
Please click here to view the table. This shows the
proportion of animal tests used, and the number of drugs filtered, at each stage of drug
Of an average of 12 drugs which make it through the animal
testing stage, only an average of 2.2 are actually launched.
Some anti-testing organisations may use this statistic to claim that animal testing
is an ineffective means of testing drug suitability. I
hope you can see that this is a rather misleading analysis and does not account for the
fact that animals are used as part of an overall filtering process where a million
possible medicines are tested.
The important role animals can play in testing the toxicity of
new drugs is demonstrated in a study carried out by the International Life Sciences
Institute (ILSI) in 2000.
The study looked at a series of pharmaceutical
compounds that had shown toxicity in human clinical trials. It found that in 71% of cases, the effects seen in
people were foreshadowed in the animal tests carried out prior to the clinical trials. Of the 29% of effects not detected in animal tests,
the majority were of a type that the animal tests were not designed to detect, or were
undetectable in that type of test, for example, headache, dizziness, and certain skin
In my view, animal tests can never prove that a medicine is
safe, as the case, in March 2006, of the six volunteers who fell ill during a drugs trial
highlighted. But they are a key part of a very important filtering process.
The reality is that such appalling incidents are exceptional, rather than frequent
occurrences because of the effectiveness of the tests depicted in the above table.
In May 2005, EDM 92 called for a scientific evaluation of
the use of animals as surrogate humans in drug safety testing and medical research.
I have not been able to sign this motion as I do not think it is possible to conduct such
an evaluation given that every research project is different and research is constantly
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unjustified animal testing
After years of decline, the number of animal tests being carried
out is now rising. The latest figures available state that in 2005, 2.9million procedures
were undertaken, a rise of 10% from 2001.
However, this is still a large decrease from the 3.6million tests that were carried out in
The increase is due to new genetics knowledge giving rise to
potential new therapies rather than any change in policy. Indeed, the reduction from
3.6million to 2.9million tests, I believe, demonstrates the effect of actively reducing
the need for animal testing by implementing the 3Rs and embracing new technology.
However, please be assured that whilst I support animal testing
for certain medical research, I will continue to be vigilant about anything that could
lead to the unnecessary testing of animals. I
will continue to insist on both the strict oversight of all research and the proper
scrutiny that challenges the need for the use of animals, especially primates.
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and Domestic Products
I am pleased that the Government will not license research using
animals in the development of alcohol or tobacco products. Since 1998, the Government has
made the same commitment to not license research using animals to test cosmetic products
EDM 1240, which I signed in December 2004, welcomes the EC
Directive that has banned the testing of all finished cosmetic products in the EU by 2006,
and all cosmetic ingredients by 2009. However
there are currently no restrictions on the imports of cosmetics that have been tested on
animals outside of the EU and this remains a loophole which needs to be closed.
I also called for the Government to ban the testing of domestic
products on animals by signing EDM 1239, at the same time.
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The implementation of the new EU legislation for the
Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) is a source of major
concern. This legislation requires all
chemical companies to prove that any chemical they produce in significant quantities is
safe for the environment and human use. It is
estimated that this will lead to 30,000 chemicals being tested over 11 years
which will inevitably lead to more animal tests. The question is, how many more?
Guenter Verheugen, the vice-president of the European Commission
overseeing the legislation, has estimated that in the worst case scenario, an extra 3.9
million more animals could be used for testing as a result of REACH. However, Mr Verheugen
quickly concluded that this increase is not ethical and stated that through finding
alternative methods and avoiding duplication this figure could be reduced by 70%.
The UK Government has also pledged its support
to minimise any extra tests.
I understand the need for this new legislation but believe that
the principles of the 3Rs should be rigorously enforced to find alternatives to animal
testing and share data between companies to avoid duplication. The implementation of this legislation, and the
extra tests caused, needs to be monitored very closely.
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I hope you can accept that the use of animals in experimental
procedures is an issue I have carefully considered. The
welfare of animals is very important to me and I do not take lightly the suffering caused
by these tests. I will continue to take careful note of developments in this area and hold
the Government to account so that testing is properly scrutinised and no unjustified
testing is allowed.
Finally, though it is right that people should be concerned
about any unnecessary cruelty to animals used in research, the numbers involved are minute
in comparison with the numbers of animals and birds bred for other uses, mainly food.
Cruelty to animals in food production is something that concerns me greatly, which is why
I am careful to buy only free range produce and to particularly avoid meat and poultry
products sourced from countries with poor animal welfare standards and why I have made it
my business to visit slaughterhouses to check up on what goes on there.
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 Research Defence Society @ www.rds-online.org.uk
 Can computer models replace animal testing?
Article in New Scientist 7, 13 May 2006
to Nuffield Council of Bioethics Report: 'The Ethics of Research Invovlving Animals'
 Olson, H. et al.,
'Concordance of the Toxicity of Pharmaceuticals in Humans and Animals', Regulatory
Toxicology and Pharmacology 32 (2000), 56-67. The Department of Health submitted this
paper in support of their written evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on
Animals in Scientific Procedures, 2002.
 The previously healthy men had volunteered to
test the medication DTGN1412, created by German pharmaceutical company TeGenero, which was
designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis. The research was carried out by the medical
research company Parexel.
 Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living
Animals: Great Britain 2005, Home Office.
 BBC Online 28/11/05: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4437304.stm
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