British record on animal experiments a \"disgrace\"
LONDON - Britain inflicts painful and lethal experiments on up to three million animals every year - a disgraceful record the government should be ashamed of, a parliamentary committee said yesterday.
A report by a committee in the upper House of Lords slammed Prime Minster Tony Blair\'s Labour government for caring more about \"pandering to the whim of the vivisection industry\" than about animal welfare.
Data published by the government this week show that animals - mostly rats, mice and other rodents - were used in more than 2.62 million scientific experiments last year, down 3.4 percent from 2000.
But experiments using genetically modified animals, again mostly mice, rose by 49,000 to 631,000 in 2001.
Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth praised the overall decline - which takes the number to record low levels - but said animal experiments were \"vital to the development of medicines and treatment for serious human ailments like cancer, spina bifida and Alzheimer\'s.\"
But the Lords committee was not impressed.
\"We still have nearly three million animals undergoing painful and lethal experiments in the UK and some massive increases in the use of animals such as dogs, monkeys and genetically modified animals,\" it said in its report.
\"The statistics are a disgrace and the government should be ashamed of what they represent - a government that cares more about pandering to the whim of the vivisection industry than the welfare of the millions of animals it kills in UK laboratories year in year out.\"
Government data show that 85 percent of scientific procedures on animals last year used rats, mice, or other rodents, while fish or birds were used in eleven percent.
Dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates such as monkeys were used in less than one percent of experiments.
Sixty-three percent were for fundamental biological research and applied human and veterinary medicine. Seventeen percent of the experiments were for toxicological or safety tests on drugs.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the decline in overall numbers was a victory for the search for alternatives.
\"This has primarily been achieved thanks to the use and development in medicines research of non-animal alternatives - an area where it is estimated that in Britain alone the pharmaceutical industry spends some 300 million pounds a year.\"
British law states that a new drug has to be tested on at least two different species of live mammal. The use of animals for testing cosmetics was banned several years ago.
The Lords committee acknowledged that experiments on animals were vital for science, but said \"more could be done to find new methods of research and testing which don\'t involve animals.\"
It criticised the government for being \"unwilling to drag itself out of its current policy vacuum on vivisection\".
\"Meanwhile the public is losing faith and patience with its ability to embrace the type of reform that we all expected of a Labour government,\" it said.
Story by Kate Kelland
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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