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release of House of Lords animal research report

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on the release of the House of Lords’ Select Committee report on the use of animals in scientific procedures.

 

Dr Mark Matfield, executive director of the Research Defence Society, said:

“The scientific community should welcome this report with open arms. It is extremely sensible and realistic and should be used as the blueprint for future government policy about the regulation of animal research and testing.

“Contrary to popular belief, scientists are developing and using non-animal alternatives all the time. These days, over 80% of medical research is done by the non-animal methods of research. We are unlikely to see the day when we can replace all animal experiments within the foreseeable future, but the Lords committee proposals to focus more effort on alternatives will be a very welcome step in that direction.”

 

Baroness Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution, said:

“I warmly welcome this report but am saddened that the Committee has not recommended putting a simple message on every prescription stating that the medication about to be taken was tested on animals. This would draw a clear line between the extremists who appear not to put a premium on human life and the vast majority who would value the lives of those closest to them above and beyond experimental animals.”

 

Dr Simon Festing of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Patients suffering illnesses like cancer or cystic fibrosis will be relieved that the Lord’s committee have so strongly endorsed the use of animals in medical research. With any luck the irresponsible and now discredited anti-vivisection movement should wither and die.”

 

Dr Gill Langley, Scientific Adviser to the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, a medical research charity with 30 years experience in developing alternatives to animal experiments, said:

“This is the second Lords’ Committee in six months to call urgently on the government to develop non-animal methods to replace animal experiments, especially in toxicology. The government’s earmarked budget for developing replacement methods is less than £100,000 per annum, a laughable amount which has not even increased this year. For 16 years the government has evaded its legislative responsibility – now is the moment for a serious funding commitment instead of meaningless words of support.”

 

Vicky Cowell, Director of Seriously Ill for Medical Research (SIMR), said:

“SIMR welcomes the House of Lords’ recommendations for improvements to laboratory animal welfare. Alternatives should be used whenever possible but when animals are used, for medical research purposes, their welfare is of the utmost importance.”

 

Lord Hunt, Professor of Applied Mathematics at University College, London, and member of the House of Lords Committee, said:

“One of the fascinating things we learned on this committee is that mathematical modeling is already reducing the need to experiment on animals in laboratories around the country – such as Professor Noble in Oxford, who has created a mathematical model of a heart. Yet, unlike in the US, this work is not receiving the recognition and profile it deserves.

“Serendipity is free, but there are many areas of science where new ideas need to be championed. That’s why we are recommending a Centre for Alternatives, which will spread best practice about the pioneering alternatives being developed.”

 

Crispin Kirkman, Chief Executive of the Bio-Industry Association, said:

“The BIA welcomes the publication of the Committee’s report and its recognition that the use of animals in medical research must be allowed to continue under appropriate regulation. Animal testing is a vital aspect of ongoing research into treatment for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and AIDS.”

 

Dr Caroline Edmunds from the The Babraham Institute, an independent charitable organization striving to find cures for conditions where there is currently no treatment, said:

“We are pleased to see recommendations on evolving and recognizing “best practice” and think that the new MRC initiative (`MRC Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research) may prove to be a good forum for such improvements. We believe that research into the 3Rs, especially replacement, should focus on top quality fundamental cell biology, recognizing that it may take many years before some animal experiments can be replaced by, for example, computer-modelled systems. We are, however, very concerned about the proposals to publish details about project licenses. The details would be very difficult to make anonymous and whilst this country is still host to violent factions of “animal rights” protestors, there will be understandable concern about the safety and security of some scientists and their families.”

 

Brian Cass, Managing Director, Huntingdon Life Sciences, said:

“I think this is a very pragmatic and balanced report which recognizes both the need for the use of animals in essential research and our obligation to treat those animals with dignity and respect and to minimise suffering. Proper emphasis is also given to encouraging and funding the development and validation of ‘alternatives’. However we should not view this as a short-term exercise. Society demands ever-higher levels of safety and in the opinion of the vast majority of scientists it will take some considerable time before those standards can be met without the use of animals in research.”

 

Alistair Kent, Director of the Genetics Interest Group, representing groups of families with genetic conditions, said:

“We welcome the re-assertion that animal research is essential. However it’s important to ensure that we use the necessary number of animals to develop the products needed to treat serious illness – we don’t want arbitrary quotas on the numbers of animals used or spurious attempts to drive down the numbers used before there is any real alternative. . At the end of the day if we don’t do the research, people will continue to suffer from diseases that are potentially treatable and even curable – that would amount to valuing animal welfare over human welfare.”

 

A spokesperson from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said:

“Of the £8 million spent by the UK pharmaceutical industry every day in researching and developing new medicines, it’s estimated that over £300 million a year is spent on developing and using alternative, non-animal methods, much of it in collaboration with colleagues in academia. However, the truth is that a computer has not yet been invented that can simulate the workings of even one of the body’s major organs – for example, the heart, lungs, liver, and especially the brain – let alone the extraordinary complexity of the interactions between them. Sadly, we are many years away from everyone’s avowed ideal of doing away with animal research altogether.”

 

Prof Iain Purchase, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, said:

“It is encouraging to see the recommendation that we should be seeking the best regulation rather than the tightest. There have been too many detailed regulations that are stifling British science. It is rather like applying coat after coat of paint – eventually you loose sight of the original object under so many obliterating layers. This is the case with these regulations – as more and more are added, the scientists find it difficult to discern the balance between science and welfare. It also places them at a disadvantage in pursuing their scientific research in comparison with their European and US competitors. So the idea that some streamlining of the regulatory environment – by using the Ethical Review Process more effectively and limiting the length of the Licence applications – is good.”

 

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