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UK Government Makes Five Announcements On Animal Testing In Westminster Hall Debate

Published on February 22, 2024

“This is becoming an annual debate,” said Elliot Colburn MP as he opened the Westminster Hall debate on animal testing earlier this week, demonstrating, as he put it, the “strength of feeling” of people across the UK on this topic. E-petitions 633591 and 645885 relating to animal testing and non-animal research methods prompted the debate, each showing public support for ending the use of animals in research. The petitions were set up by dedicated campaigners, including singer-songwriter and actor Will Young. A cross-party group of MPs came together to make much-valued contributions, and to hear – along with audience members Animal Free Research UK and other supportive organisations – five announcements from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

So, what exactly did DSIT announce during the debate? Science Minister Andrew Griffith used his speech in the debate to make the below five pledges to support the acceleration of non-animal alternatives in research, and the more rigorous regulation of animal testing:

1. Double the Investment: UK Research and Innovation to double funding for research into the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine) and non-animal alternatives from £10 million to £20 million.*
*Of course, Animal Free Research UK will be encouraging the Government to focus this funding on replacement only.

2. A Roadmap: ‘A plan to accelerate the development, validation and uptake of technologies and methods to reduce reliance on the use of animals in science’ to be published this summer.

3. Increasing the cost of animal research: An increase in fees for licences to use animals in research.

4. Considering licence duration: A review of the duration of licences for research using animals with a view to putting ‘more challenge into the system’.

5. Measuring public opinion: A ‘Public Attitudes to Animal Research Survey’ with the British public to be published in the autumn.

These welcome announcements came at the end of the debate, after considered and passionate contributions from debate-leader Elliot Colburn, and MPs Tracey Crouch, George Eustice, Wera Hobhouse, and Patricia Gibson. The MPs each focused on the potential of human-specific technologies to replace animals in research. These cutting-edge methods include the use of artificial intelligence, organ-on-a-chip and advanced use of human cells and tissues, which all have the potential to accelerate medical breakthroughs, boost our economy, get safer medicines to market faster, and replace the outdated use of animals in research. You can read more on these technologies here.

We were delighted to hear Tracey Crouch, George Eustice and Patricia Gibson mention our charity by name, as well as a namecheck for our Animal Replacement Centre of Excellence (ARC) by recent-visitor to the laboratory – and former DEFRA Minister – George Eustice.

Patricia Gibson also mentioned in her speech our  Open Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for support in the upcoming Spring Budget to help unlock the potential of human-specific technologies, signed by 35 leading scientific experts. We are grateful to our inspiring and dedicated network of scientists for their crucial support in this initiative and were proud to see it be raised in Parliament to argue the case for change.

Important interventions were also made by MPs Virginia Crosbie, Kerry McCarthy, Caroline Nokes, and Dr Lisa Cameron, all in support of advancing human-specific technologies to make animal replacement a reality.

The debate saw both the Government and Opposition highlight the exciting potential of advances in science and technology to replace animals – something our animal-free community can feel positive about. Chi Onwurah, Shadow Science Minister, stated that “human rights and animal rights are intrinsically linked” and that “we will not advance human therapies and cures, as we should, if we continue to rely on animals that do not get the diseases that humans suffer from”. Minister Andrew Griffith repeated his personal assertion “that the day cannot come quickly enough when we are able to end the practice of animal testing”, whilst stating that it is the “Government’s position that we want to replace the use of animals in scientific procedures with non-animal alternatives wherever we can.” Minister Andrew Griffith also mentioned the “great work” at our ARC at Queen Mary University of London, echoing George Eustice’s earlier comments. We welcome the cross-party support for transitioning to human-specific technologies and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure these words translate into the actions we all want to see.

Recalling Elliot Colburn’s comments at the opening of the debate, Minister Andrew Griffith affirmed as he closed that “none of us would want such a debate to become an annual event,” yet if every debate demonstrated such resounding support for animal-free science from across the political spectrum, we might push for one to be held every month!

As ever, a huge thank you to the petitioners and the supporters of ending animal testing for adding their signatures to secure this debate. Each and every one of us as UK constituents can have an impact on our political landscape, including encouraging our MPs to raise this issue in parliament in initiatives such as this one, where promising action has been announced.

Of course, at Animal Free Research UK, we will continue to push for the full replacement of animal experiments with cutting-edge, ethical innovations, so we can move closer to our collective vision of a world where human diseases are cured faster with animal-free, human-specific technologies.

  • You can read the full transcript of the debate here
  • You can watch the debate here

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