The Home Office has published new draft regulations to implement the recent European directive 2010/63 EU on the protection of animals used in scientific procedures.
OneKind has been working with other animal welfare groups over the last year to ensure that the new UK law preserves existing standards of animal protection and, if possible, enhances them.
Although the Directive’s standards are lower than those in the UK, it does allow member states to retain pre-existing higher standards already provided in domestic laws. In May, the government announced that it would take advantage of this provision to retain special protection for dogs, cats and horses as well as non-human primates, and current UK care and accommodation standards that are stricter than those set out in the Directive.
Some inhumane killing methods will still be prohibited and current licensing controls will remain in place. A ban on the use of great apes remains and is now written into the legislation.
More negative aspects include the fact that multiple generic licences will continue to be granted. This already happens with regulatory testing by contract research laboratories, but can now be expanded to other areas.
There has also been a public outcry about exemptions that could allow the use of stray and feral animals where their use is deemed to be “essential” and “justified”. The government has chosen to incorporate these exemptions on the grounds that they are broadly consistent with current UK legislation, policy and practice. Ultimately, however, permission to use stray or feral animals will depend on the interpretation of as yet undefined scientific justification – and this remains very concerning.
The length of time that foetal mammals are protected is to be reduced and the re-use of animals following a procedure classed as ‘severe’ is to be allowed.
A hoped-for ban on the use of F1 generation primates (where one or both parents have been taken from the wild, with devastating animal welfare impacts) has been delayed.
In terms of wider monitoring, thematic reviews – specific animal experiments to be reviewed and timetables set for replacement - are under consideration. However, review of s.24 of the current Act, exempting licence holders from freedom of information requests, is still on hold, meaning that the public will still not have access to much basic information about the procedures and processes involved in animal experimentation
The draft regulations contain more commitments to the 3Rs (refinement, reduction and replacement) but place no special emphasis on promoting replacement, which is the only genuine humane alternative. This comes in the wake of the highest figures for animal experiments for almost 25 years, with 3,792,857 scientific procedures carried out on 3,710, 621 animals in 2011, according to the Home Office statistical report published on 10 July.
It’s important at this stage to keep the government focused on the need to drive down the number of experiments on animals. To this end, OneKind is supporting Westminster EDM 405, sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP and other MPs across the parties, calling on the government to publish a strategy for reducing the numbers of animals used in experiments, before the end of the current Parliament.
Please help by contacting your MP and asking him or her to sign EDM 405 on Animals Used in Scientific Procedures. You can find out who your MP is by putting in your postcode on the UK Parliament website and check who has already signed the motion. And if your MP has already done so, why not send a note to say thank you?