Concern shown over use of 4m animals in UK experiments

KARACHI: The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is dismayed that the number of animal experiments is continuing to rise, climbing to 4.12 million experiments. The publication today of the Home Office’s annual ‘Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals’ reveals that over 4 million animals were used in experiments in the UK last year.

NAVS President Jan Creamer said, “It is a national disgrace that the number of animal experiments is rising, year on year, despite continuing advances in science and ever-growing public concern. More alternatives to animal experiments exist than ever before, yet more and more experiments are being performed on animals – the public deserves to know why. We have waited too long for transparency and public accountability on this issue. These latest figures are a clear signal that the Government must scrap “Section 24”, the notorious secrecy clause, and open up experimentation to genuine outside scrutiny.”

Over half of the 4 million animals (2.1 million, 52%) were used in experiments to create animals with Genetic Modifications (GM) or ‘Harmful Mutations’. GM animals can suffer deformed limbs, fused bones and painful swellings, and scientists have stated that “Many failures and unexpected effects of genetic modification go unrecorded in the scientific literature”. Despite the explosion in the past decades of the genetic modification of animals in British laboratories, such manipulations fail to overcome fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals which make them poor ‘models’ for human diseases.

NAVS President Jan Creamer said, “We are deeply concerned that genetic modification of animals is being allowed to simply increase year on year. NAVS investigations have revealed a great deal of pain and suffering is caused by breeding GM animals. ‘Donors’ and ‘parents’ are subjected to repeated surgeries, egg collection, implantation and repeated blood and tissue testing. Their babies can suffer severe deformities, painful swellings, fused lungs and premature death. The vast majority of babies are discarded and killed because only 3-5% show the desired trait.”

- An increase in the number of experiments for the fourth year in a row (up 0.3%), but a slight overall decrease in the number of animals experimented on (down 0.4% since 2012, with 4,017,758 animals used in 4,121,582 experiments). This means that animals are increasingly being re-used, and suffering in multiple experiments.

- 3,554 dogs were experimented on, 3,442 of which were beagles. Dogs can be force-fed compounds such as agricultural chemicals, or have toxic substances pumped into their veins, which can make them so sick that they die in agony. Secretary of State Eric Pickles will decide on a controversial planning application for a beagle breeding facility in Yorkshire which if granted, risks fuelling demand and could reverse the overall downward trend in the use of dogs in the UK and EU. The NAVS is urging the public to voice their objection to the plans before July 18th.

- 3,236 experiments were carried out on monkeys. Almost three quarters of the experiments were performed on monkeys sourced from outside the UK or EU (73%). In the UK, monkeys are used mainly to test drugs or for neurological research. Animals typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds; electrodes implanted into their brains; full body immobilization in restraint chairs whilst they are experimented on. Most monkeys are killed at the end of the experiment. Earlier this year, the NAVS revealed shocking images and footage from laboratory monkey supply facilities in Mauritius and Spain.

The Government is currently undertaking a review of secrecy in animal experiments. Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, known as the ‘secrecy clause’, prevents wider public and scientific scrutiny of animal tests. It is currently being reviewed by the Government as it conflicts with an EU Directive which promotes openness and transparency in animal experiments. Repeal of Section 24 would not compromise health or safety, protection of confidential information or intellectual property, because the Freedom of Information Act already provides for the protection of personal and confidential information. The Government stated in a recent public consultation that its preferred option is to repeal Section 24, however it intends to replace it with new legislation, leading to fears that the UK could follow in the footsteps of the US, where draconian ‘ag-gag’ laws criminalise whistleblowers and undercover investigators who reveal the reality of animal facilities.

There is strong and growing support from scientists, politicians, celebrities and the public to end the secrecy surrounding animal experiments. Supporters of a repeal of Section 24 include 24 celebrities and over 30 organisations, companies and eminent individuals, including Sir Paul McCartney, Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, Sir Jonathon Porritt, Peter Tatchell, Campaign for Freedom of Information, Voice for Ethical Research at Oxford and The Kennel Club. MPs from all parties have supported motions calling for reform.

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