Animal Aid

New Labour Betrays Laboratory Animals: Number of animal experiments up 21% since 1997

Posted 21 July 2008

Home Office figures released today show that New Labour has overseen a 21 per cent increase in animal experiments since coming to power in 1997, despite pre-election promises to reduce the number of experiments involving animals.

More than 3.2 million scientific ‘procedures’ using animals were started in 2007, a 6 per cent rise on 2006 and the highest total since the early 1990s. Significant increases were seen in the number of procedures using dogs, mice, fish and domestic fowl. There were increases in the number of experiments involving both ‘normal’ and genetically-modified animals.

Sixty-one per cent of procedures in 2007 did not use any form of anaesthetic, despite New Labour’s pre-1997 pledge to ‘insist on the highest possible standards of welfare in the laboratory’. This pledge is further undermined by a separate report released today by the Animals in Scientific Procedures Inspectorate, showing a woefully inadequate laboratory inspection regime. Just 24 inspectors are called upon to monitor more than three million procedures. Where breaches of regulations have been uncovered, punishments have amounted to nothing more than ‘letters of admonishment’.

The eight per cent increase in the number of procedures using genetically modified (GM) animals follows a disturbing decade-long trend. GM experiments now account for 46 per cent of the total. Government officials are quick to point out that most of these GM procedures relate simply to breeding, yet they ignore the significant suffering inherent in breeding animals with deliberate genetic mutations. Many suffer from potentially painful complications such as limb malformations, immune system malfunction, severely enlarged internal organs and are prone to debilitating and fatal infections. This is in addition to the suffering that the mutation is intended to cause – through the mimicking of serious human diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cystic fibrosis.

Labour also disregards powerful and accumulating evidence showing that animals are unreliable ‘models’ of human disease. There is equally strong evidence demonstrating the folly of using information obtained from animal tests to decide whether or not people can be safely exposed to a given drug or chemical.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘New Labour came into power on a platform of animal welfare reform, promising a clean break from the years of Conservative rule – a period characterised by policy initiatives that framed animals as mere commodities. The 23 per cent rise in animal experiments over the last decade puts paid to its empty promises. In fact, New Labour has not only reneged on several promises to improve the lives of animals, it has worked diligently to marginalise and criminalise animal rights activists – the vast majority of whom are committed to peaceful campaigning.’

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