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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4 thoughts on “Minister Norman Baker wants end to UK animal tests

  1. It strikes me as extremely unethical how animals are treated by us in the 21st century. Mass-production of meat under horrible conditions, animal testing of cosmetic products, these lab experiments with animals etc.
    Although I do have to say that on using animals in lab experiments my opinion is less clear-cut than on the rest. I could imagine that in some cases there might be no alternative method present that is as good and drive science&medicine further just as well. As a vegan with an interest of the work on life-extension carried out for example I wonder whether research on age-related diseases such as Alzheimers carried out with mice is something we can consider ethical or not? If it really improves our lives and stops suffering one could argue that it is ethical in these cases. Nevertheless, there is some research treating animals very improperly. I’ve recently read a study where the effects of clinical death & CPR was tested (I believe with monkeys) and where the few surviving animals without damage were ~killed~ after the experiment for no particular reason. May have been an older study but such treatment of animals has to stop. What do you think?

    PS: I was searching the heart icon for a while, where is it? 😀

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  2. Hi, thanks for following – and for commenting!

    Personally, I fail to find what’s ethical about treating animals as nothing more than commodities which exist purely for our own benefit or advancement. It seems the majority of people would put human life on a higher scale of worthiness than animal life and to me, that’s nonsensical. More problems are caused on this planet as a result of human action than of any other species. No other species is as selfish, greedy and stubborn as human beings. With regards to testing on animals for scientific purposes, I simply don’t believe that it’s worth it. Yes we have made some medical breakthroughs following tests on animals, but we’d have made even more testing on willing human volunteers, or on human skin cells, or on genetically modified cells which replicate those of humans. I don’t believe the effects experienced by animals are the same as the effects experienced by humans; I don’t think animal testing is valid or reliable.

    A couple of interesting reads surrounding animal testing for medical research are 1) http://www.buav.org/_lib/userfiles/files/Science_Reports/BUAV_Ending_primate_experiments_2007.pdf and 2) http://www.animalaid.org.uk/images/pdf/booklets/victims.pdf, which show non-animal tests can already match data from animal tests to 70% and that in many cases, tests on animals do not adequately ensure the safety of human drug trials. They also show that animal researchers have struggled for decades to mimic human cancer in animals – they still can’t do it. Despite this, millions of sentient animals have died, in lingering, unnecessary agony.

    I’d be curious who would argue animal testing was ethical if it “really improves our lives”. In my opinion there’s nothing remotely ethical about the horrific procedures inflicted on innocent animals, and there’s even less ethical about the inhumane, barbaric treatment the animals receive at the hands of many of these researchers. The conditions they’re kept in are appalling and their suffering mostly goes unnoticed, or simply uncared about. We’re lucky animals can’t speak; I’d be curious how we’d explain our ‘ethical’ argument to them if they could.

    Good to hear your thoughts – and yep, the heart icon is pretty well hidden! It’s at the top left, next to the title of each entry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughts, I definitely see your point. I guess it’s a difficult question to answer on rational grounds, but do we want to place the lives of let’s say 1000 lab animals higher than the cure of millions of human beings? On the one hand it’s probably extremely misleading in that many more animals die for much less successful results. But let’s assume for a moment that this is possible. What’s more ethical then? Trying to conduct research not as good at giving us a cure of the disease in question or using the lab animals for research? That’s a question I’m still trying to find my personal opinion on – it’s just that I could imagine theoretical scenarios where conducting research on animals might be ethically…feasible. But if your sources are correct this will be an increasingly less important question to ask if alternative research methods become available.
      Another complex factor in these debates is – as you mentioned – whether we allow ourselves to ‘rank’ animals according to their importance, supposedly with humans at the top. I also have yet to find an answer on this, but in theory also this could be imaginable to a certain degree. If we’d have to compare the worth of a human beings life with the worth of the life of a mosquito, I guess even many vegans would argue that the former is higher.

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  3. It’s definitely a complex issue and it’s one I think many people struggle to get their heads around. I personally just don’t see why it’s acceptable to use millions of animals to research a cure for millions of humans. I simply don’t get it. Why on earth should animals have to suffer so we can cure ourselves? Are we going to sacrifice millions of humans to try and cure diseases which affect millions of animals? No. So why should they be the ones to suffer – what makes us more worthy of being cured?

    Yep, you certainly could categorise various species and ponder forever where we rank versus the infinite taxa out there. I don’t think there’s any easy answer, but the debate has been around forever and isn’t going anywhere. Maybe you could cast your vote here? 🙂 http://www.debate.org/opinions/is-human-life-more-important-than-the-lives-of-other-animals

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