Minister Norman Baker wants end to UK animal tests

The minister in charge of regulating animal experiments in the UK has said he wants to see an end to all testing.

Lib Dem MP Norman Baker – a longstanding anti-vivisection campaigner – said a ban on animal testing “would not happen tomorrow”.

But he claimed the government was moving in the right direction. The coalition is committed to reducing the number of live animal experiments – but animal rights campaigners say they have broken that promise.

Mr Baker, who as crime prevention minister at the Home Office has responsibility for regulating the use of animals in science, said he was trying to persuade the industry to accept the economic case for ending tests.

“I am firmly of the belief it is not simply a moral issue but that we as a nation can get a strategic advantage from this – something that will be good for the economy,” Mr Baker told BBC News. “I have been encouraging the industry to come up with alternatives to animal testing.”

‘Privacy clause’

The scientific community says research on live animals is vital to understanding disease and has resulted in new vaccines and also treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, asthma and HIV – but opponents say it is cruel and pointless, as alternative research methods are available.

Mr Baker has also promised legislation before the next election to increase transparency – potentially giving the public the chance to obtain details about what happens to animals in laboratories.

At the moment, the Home Office blocks requests for data on research contracts and the justification for using live animals as the issue is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Laboratory mice

Researchers are protected by a “privacy clause” in Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

Mr Baker has carried out a review of the Section 24 following a high profile campaign by the National Anti-Vivisection Society and celebrities including Joanna Lumley and Eddie Izzard.

In a statement, Mr Baker said: “The coalition government is committed to enhancing openness and transparency about the use of animals in scientific research to improve public understanding of this work. It is also a personal priority of mine.

“The consultation on Section 24 of the Animals in Science Act has now concluded and we are currently analysing responses in preparation for pursuing potential legislative change.”

The number of experiments on animals in the UK increased by 52% between 1995 and 2013, according to official statistics.

Latest figure show show 4.12 million procedures were carried out with animals in 2013, a rise of 0.3% on the previous year.

‘Suffer and die’

There was a 6% increase in breeding genetically modified animals and a 5% decrease in other procedures.

Mice, fish and rats were the most commonly used species in 2013, with 3.08 million procedures carried out on them.

Animal stats
The rise in the total number of procedures was 0.03% between 2012 and 2013. There was an increase in testing of guinea pigs (+13,602); sheep (+2,919); rabbits (+1,233); pigs (+350); gerbils (+279); monkeys (+216) and reptiles (+183). But there was a fall in experiments on birds (-13,259); amphibians (-3,338); cattle (-1,167); goats (-969) and hamsters (-354).

British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection chief executive Michelle Thew said: ‘We continue to be disappointed that the government has failed to deliver on its 2010 pledge to reduce animal experiments and to end the use of animals to test household products.

“Millions of animals continue to suffer and die in our laboratories. The UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing, yet we remain one of the world’s largest users of animals in experiments and the numbers continue to rise. We have, however, been encouraged by recent statements from Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, that increased transparency regarding animal experiments will be dealt with within this Parliament.”

But Chris Magee, of the Understanding Animal Research campaign, expressed reservations about Mr Baker’s call for an end to testing. He said: “I think we all agree that alternatives should be developed and used wherever possible, and it should be noted that more than 15,000 fewer animals were used in 2013 than 2012. It is already against the law to use an animal for research if there’s an alternative method available. We should also be clear that it is illegal to test cosmetics or their ingredients on animals. Experiments are for medical, scientific, veterinary and environmental research, and over half of experiments are the breeding of genetically altered animals, mainly mice. We have long argued for increased funding for developing alternatives and reform of Section 24, however a hurdle to the minister’s vision may be that a great deal of research is about discovering how biological systems work in the first place. You cannot simulate the unknown.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28580792

Related post: Animal Procedures Committee releases review of ‘welfare’ of animals in science: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/2014/07/29/animal-procedures-committee-releases-review-of-welfare-of-animals-in-science/

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London zoo under investigation after beer thrown over tiger

Westminster city council has launched an investigation into night parties held at London zoo, following revelations of alcohol-fuelled incidents including a beer being thrown over a tiger, a drunken woman reportedly trying to enter a lion enclosure and a man stripping off and attempting to enter the penguin pool.

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that sources at the zoo had raised serious concerns over rowdy behaviour by members of the public at the Zoo Lates sessions, but the zoo insists that animal welfare is not threatened and there is no need to review its policy of selling alcohol at the events.

“During the day, welfare and conservation is of the utmost priority. In the evening, that seems to go out of the window, and the animals become a commodity. That’s not what zoos are about, but there’s a lot of money in it,” a source said.

On Friday nights throughout the summer, London Zoo hosts

The Friday night events held over the summer are now being investigated by the council, which issues the zoo’s license, to see if animal welfare and public welfare are being put at risk.

Steve Harrison, Westminster city council’s operation director of street management, said: “If they are true, the stories about London zoo’s Late sessions raise real concerns both about public safety and animal welfare. We have already asked for a full report into what happened. The zoo has duties of care and clear commitments under its premises and zoo licences and we will work with managers to ensure they are upheld at any future events.”

A spokeswoman for the zoo has said the events are safe, a ban on alcohol is not necessary, and only three people were removed from the sessions during 2013 and 2014. The evenings raise £800,000 a year to fund the zoo’s conservation programmes and animal collections.

A petition calling for the zoo’s management to close the Zoo Lates has collected nearly 15,000 signatures in a fortnight.

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/31/london-zoo-beer-tiger-westminster-council-investigation

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Event: Annual International Primate Rescue Convention

Venue: Rain Bar, Manchester
Date: 13th September 2014
Cost: £10
Website: http://www.iprescue.org
Contact name: Lucy Younger
Contact telephone: 07814408251
Contact email: lucy.younger@iprescue.org.uk

This September, International Primate Rescue will be hosting a convention to thank all their supporters, funders and volunteers – while providing a fantastic opportunity for people to ask questions about their work, how they care for their wide array of primates and how you can get involved.


One of the main aspects of the evening will be to help raise vital funds for the development and expansion of the sanctuary, which currently houses over 100 rescued primates and is imminently awaiting the arrival of crab-eating macaques from Israel.

The sanctuary staff are working hard to maintain and build new enclosures to address the increasing demand for rescued primates, as they expect between 60 and 100 new arrivals this year.

The event will take place at the award winning Rain Bar in the heart of Manchester and promises to be a fascinating, entertaining evening, with a fantastic cause at its heart. To order tickets or for more information, visit www.iprescue.org


Shetland ponies ‘dumped by irresponsible owners’

Animal rescue centres are reporting a rise in the number of Shetland ponies being dumped by owners who bought them in the mistaken belief that they would make cuddly pets.

The craze for miniature horses was boosted by a television advert that featured Shetland ponies dancing, moon-walking and tapping their hooves to the Fleetwood Mac track Everywhere.

Although the breed has always been popular, the advert for the “3” phone company turned the prancing ponies into YouTube stars.

Another advert, for Visit Scotland, featuring the same ponies wearing Fair Isle jumpers, was shown in cinemas and online.


Yesterday, Helen Thompson, one of the country’s leading Shetland breeders, said the dancing ponies advert, described as the funniest ever, brought the animals worldwide attention but she claimed that the growing numbers being abandoned at animal centres was down to irresponsible breeders flooding the market with foals to make money.

“There have always been too many ponies being bred, of all breeds. Without a doubt, there are too many ponies about, but not just Shetland ponies – ponies throughout the Highlands, Scotland and the UK,” said Ms Thompson, chairwoman of Pony Breeders of Shetland.

“There are problems about the numbers. I enjoyed the advert, but the breed will always have too many numbers, because of irresponsible owners wanting to make money.

“People think of the ponies as pets, but they are working horses. We race them, which is good for the breed.”

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said there had been a notable rise in the numbers of people contacting rescue and rehoming centres wanting to hand over their horses.

“Year on year we have seen a notable rise in the number of people contacting our rescue and rehoming centres to discuss giving up their horse,” he said.

“In the majority of cases, the reason given by the owner is that they can no longer meet the huge costs involved in horse ownership and this is always particularly evident in the lead-up to winter, with people worried they will not be able to provide supplementary feeding for their horses over the colder months..

“We took in 40 equines in 2013 and have already rescued 26 this year, some of which had been neglected by their owners due to financial issues. In several cases horses required urgent veterinary attention but had been left to suffer because their owner could not afford the vet bills.”

Mr Flynn added: “While most people know we rehome dogs, cats and small animals, there is less awareness of the fact that we rescue, rehabilitate and find new owners for horses and ponies at both our Edinburgh and Lothians and Aberdeenshire centres.

“It is extremely rewarding to offer an animal a second chance in life and we would certainly encourage anyone thinking of taking on an equine to contact us.

“However, we would always encourage anyone thinking of taking on a horse or pony to bear in mind the considerable costs involved. In the current economic climate, feed, tack, farriers’ fees, livery costs and vets’ bills mean this is a luxury that few people can afford.”

Vicki Alford, horse rehoming manager at the Blue Cross in Burford, Oxfordshire, said her organisation took in eight ponies in 2003, but 63 last year.

She said: “This is the equine equivalent to the handbag dog trend.

“Small ponies are very popular with families who want to get their children a pet.

“But despite their size, Shetlands can be very strong and require as much care and management as any other larger horse.”

Article taken from: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/shetland-ponies-dumped-by-irresponsible-owners-1-3492414

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Animal Procedures Committee releases review of ‘welfare’ of animals in science

The Animal Procedures Committee (body previously responsible for advising the Home Secretary on matters relating to animal testing), headed by MP Norman Baker, have today released their review of the assessment of cumulative severity and lifetime experience in non-human primates used in neuroscience research. This review, undertaken to establish “the cumulative effect of long term scientific procedures on the animals involved”, focused on the physiological and behavioural effects on animals used in such procedures, in particular primates such as macaque and marmosets.

The full paper can be viewed here: Review of the Assessment of Cumulative Severity and Lifetime Experience in Non-Human Primates used in Neuroscience Research.


Incredibly – or perhaps predictably – he review concludes “little evidence” was found (in the majority of non-human primates) to suggest that, after applying all refinement techniques, the cumulative impact on the animal warrants an increased severity assessment over that for single events/procedures alone. The review also highlighted issues specific to the concepts of cumulative severity and lifetime experience that should be subject to further and future debate, namely:
– the quality of life of primates bred specifically for neuroscience research;
– the conflict between using a small number of subjects for longer or more subjects for a shorter period; and the weighting of the impact of the terminal phase against the overall lifetime, and
– experience of the animal when assigning severity categories.

The entire report makes for pretty grim reading, in particular the sheer number of animals our government continues to allow to be butchered in the ever loosening name of science, along with the conditions these poor animals are forced to endure. Equally chilling is section 1.2.7 which states that, “users provided a list of advances to improve primate welfare, for example, in anaesthesia, housing, training and implants, that had made it possible to carry out improved long-term neuroscience research”. Somehow ‘primate welfare’, ‘implants’ and ‘neuroscience research’ in the same sentence aren’t quite ringing true for me. You have to wonder how the picture would change if primates in these situations were swapped for their consistently scientifically championed cousins: us. I can’t quite picture the government signing humans off to have implants inserted in their skulls while confining them to a lifetime of pain and cruelty. In fact, on the same day this review has been released, news reaches us that the government has reviewed a ban on guitars in UK prison cells.

Ironic isn’t it, how close they claim we are to primates when it suits them.

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Sting of the Day: College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt members charged with illegal fox hunting

Three members of the College Valley and North Northumberland Hunt, including the Joint Master and Huntsman, have been charged with illegally hunting a fox.

Joint Master, Timothy Wyndham Basil Smalley, Huntsman, Ian Robert McKie and Kennel Huntsman, Andrew John Proe, are each charged with hunting a wild mammal with dogs, contrary to Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) cub, 7 weeks old
The case is based on evidence supplied by the League Against Cruel Sports and further investigations carried out by Northumbria Police, in relation to an incident alleged to have taken place during an advertised hunt meet at West Kyloe Farm, near Lowick, Northumberland on 27th February 2014.

All three defendants have pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges. The case has been listed for trial at Berwick Magistrates’ Court on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th October 2014.

Taken from: http://www.league.org.uk/news-and-opinion/press-releases/2014/july/college-valley-and-north-northumberland-hunt-members-charged-with-illegal-fox-hunting

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Paws for Thought: Loss is loss, regardless of size.

“Though for emotional or aesthetic reasons we may lament the loss of large charismatic species, such as tigers, rhinos, and pandas, we now know that loss of animals, from the largest elephant to the smallest beetle, will also fundamentally alter the form and function of the ecosystems upon which we all depend.”

– Sacha Vignieri


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