Open Letter to Minister for Science, Research and Innovation

Dear Minister Griffith,

We welcome your recent announcement of measures to accelerate the uptake of animal-free approaches to research and testing, including increased funding and the development of an action plan.

Now is the time to build on this by introducing Herbie’s Law: a new legislative framework to support the long-term replacement of animals with human-specific technologies, such as organ-on-a-chip and AI.

There are compelling scientific, ethical and economic reasons to accelerate this transition:

  • By producing results that are directly relevant to humans, cutting-edge, animal-free technologies offer the best chance of securing much-needed medical progress. Alzheimer’s disease is just one area where breakthroughs are urgently needed, having seen clinical trial failures of more than 99 per cent.
  • Animals in laboratories can endure distressing suffering. A recent Home Office report describes welfare failings in British laboratories that resulted in animals drowning, starving and dying from a lack of ventilation. Some current project licences allow animals to be deprived of food or water to ‘motivate’ them to perform behavioural tests, and pain to be induced using heat or electric shocks.
  • As well as advancing medical progress and improving animal protection, human-specific technologies have major potential to boost economic growth. The size of the global market for non-animal testing is expected to grow to $2.33 billion in 2024.

Around the world, pro-innovation policy is embracing human-specific approaches. This includes the FDA Modernization Act which facilitates the use of non-animal methods within the drug testing process, and the Netherlands’ Transition Programme for Innovation without the use of animals (TPI). Introducing world-first legislation would secure Britain’s global leadership in this field. Inspired by the Climate Change Act, Herbie’s Law would set a target year for the long-term replacement of animals in medical research and testing. It would describe activities for Government to take in support of this goal (such as developing action plans and reporting to Parliament on progress); provide for the set-up of an Expert Advisory Committee; and set out provisions to kickstart shorter-term progress, such as practical support and training for scientists. It is named after Herbie – a 14 year-old beagle who was bred for research but deemed not to be needed, who now lives happily with Animal Free Research UK’s CEO, Carla Owen.

The UK is perfectly poised to unlock the major opportunities offered by human-specific research methods, transforming the lives of patients around the world, while building a strong and future-focused domestic economy. Introducing Herbie’s Law would cement our position as a scientific superpower, while supporting our proud identity as a nation of animal lovers.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Natalie Bennett

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Sir Robert Buckland MP

Ian Byrne MP

Tracey Crouch MP

Allan Dorans MP

Wera Hobhouse MP

Baroness Fiona Hodgson

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenny McAskill MP

John McNally MP

Grahame Morris MP

Jess Phillips MP

Henry Smith MP

Jane Stevenson MP

Giles Watling MP

Mick Whitley MP