Thank you for contacting me about the debate on animal testing on the 25th October and/or EDM 175 and calls for a public scientific hearing.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the debate on the 25th October due to long standing diary commitments, however, I have had an opportunity to review the debate and the minister's comments. You can read the full debate, including the minister's summary of the steps being taken on these issues, on the following link: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-10-25/debates/486708F3-E5DE-4121-B9E0-F146AFF73031/AnimalTesting#contribution-795711A4-74F2-4D63-8187-9F68EDF0B2B7
I am proud that the UK has consistently led the way on animal welfare, and it is right that we cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar. I am pleased that the Government's first-of-its-kind Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed to maintaining high standards of protection where procedures are undertaken on live animals for scientific or educational purposes - details of the Action Plan for Animal Welfare can be seen here - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/985332/Action_Plan_for_Animal_Welfare.pdf
The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work in health and disease, and in the development of new medicines, treatments and technologies. I was pleased by the minister's comment in the debate of the importance of technology and the 'human-on-a-chip' and 'organ-on-a-chip' technologies that may hold the opportunity for us to remove reliance on animal testing. Animals are only used in research when there are no suitable alternatives, and any tests carried out are under controls that keep suffering to a minimum. This is known as the last-resort principle, which will be retained and strengthened in the Environment Bill, presently passing through Parliament and the then minister provided further details earlier this year in the following Parliamentary Question: : https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-07-06/28309
Cosmetic testing on animals was banned in the United Kingdom in 1998 and household products have not been tested on animals in the UK since 2011, with such testing formally banned in 2015.
I am strongly opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches can be used.
I was pleased to read the minister's strongly held position that we have a duty of care as human beings to the animals around us and that from his career in medical research prior to entering Parliament, he has seen the importance of using technology to try to remove dependence on animals in the development of medicines.
In addition, I welcome the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill to Parliament. This Bill will not only enshrine recognition of animal sentience in domestic law, but will also establish an expert-led Animal Sentience Committee, which will produce reports on the impact of policy decisions on animal welfare.
In relation to EDM 175, I do not, as a general rule, sign EDMs as they have no prospect of changing the law, are seldom dated and do not raise the profile of an issue with a minister. Specifically in relation to this EDM, animal research still plays a role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available. Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and I know Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.
It is important to remember that, existing scientific research methods ensure that, by the time medicines reach clinical trial, risks are significantly reduced. I fully support all steps to establish new methods and to support the life sciences and research industry. Since 2017, the Government has invested around £1 billion through two Life Sciences Sector Deals, helping to generate significant levels of industry investment in the UK. I am committed to making the UK the leading global hub for life sciences. The Life Sciences Investment Programme (LSIP) aims to unlock the potential of the UK’s best health and life science innovations, allowing companies to grow in the UK. This investment programme consists of up to £600 million of joint Government and industry investment.
I hope this offers you some reassurance that this Government is committed to maintaining the very highest standards of animal welfare in research
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.