You may remember that at the end of October our #Target Zero petition to phase out animal testing, which we launched jointly with Animal Free Research UK and Cruelty Free International, was debated in the UK Parliament.

Yesterday the topic was debated again, in what is known as adjournment debate, where an MP can have a one-on-one discussion with the relevant Minister on a topic of their choice.

Margaret Ferrier MP

Margaret Ferrier, an independent Scottish MP, applied for the debate, and secured the final slot before Parliament closed for the Christmas recess. She gave a powerful speech, with feeling, and voiced her own and constituents’ concerns, noting that the public wants and end to animal testing and that it is the responsibility of politicians to represent them.

“Are we willing to go from a world leader when it comes to animal rights, to merely following the law?”, she asked.

She stated that in the previous debate the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation was making an argument that hinged on flawed principles – that animal testing is necessary, legal and is only used as a last resort. She gave evidence against all of those claims.

Beyond these general points, she said that: “In my recent pursuit of information on Scotland specific animal research data, and unnecessary animal deaths at testing facilities, the Home Office have been so reluctant to provide any meaningful responses at all.”

Scotland is well placed to be a world leader in the replacement of animal testing, yet over half a million experiments are carried out annually in Scotland.

Margaret went on to ask, “How can we recognise the sentience of animals and not recognise the hypocrisy of allowing them to suffer in the name of medicine when those medicines are not even reaching the market? How can that be justified?”

“While it may be legally permissible, it is not morally permissible,” she said.

She also pointed out how difficult it is to gain information or know who in Government to engage with on this topic, as responsibility for it is spread over various departments and bodies, demonstrating that it is not high up the Government priority list.

Margaret concluded by thanking OneKind, Animal Free Research UK, Cruelty Free International, and PETA, for our hard work towards change in this area.

Disappointingly but not surprisingly, Tom Pursglove, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, giving the UK Government response, did not veer from his pre-written script to respond to Margaret’s points and questions.

We commend Margaret for keeping up the pressure on the UK Government to phase out animal testing.

What’s happening in Scotland?

Christine Grahame MSP recently lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament acknowledging the harm caused by clinging on to outdated animal testing in Scotland and calling for a rapid acceleration of the movement to replacement methods here. We supported this motion, as did many MSPs, showing that there is strong cross-party support for ending animal testing in Scotland.

This chimes with the wishes of Scottish people: a YouGov poll conducted in March 2021 for Cruelty-Free International found that 76 per cent of Scottish adults agreed that support for alternative methods should be prioritised in science and innovation funding, and 62 per cent agreed that deadlines should be set to phase out animal testing.

In November, we published an article in Holyrood magazine highlighting the problems with animal testing and the opportunities that replacement methods opened up for Scotland.

What’s next for #TargetZero?

Our petition is still open, if you haven’t signed it yet, please do so. We plan to hand this petition into Downing Street in January (Covid restrictions permitting) and the more signatures it has, the better.

But we won’t stop there. We have plans for next year to keep up the pressure on both the UK and Scottish Governments to commit to phasing out animal testing. Watch this space!