RSPCA: Planned Government law risks lab animal welfare

RSPCA says lab animal welfare is still at risk after Government announces plans for new law

RSPCA scientists are ‘deeply worried’ after details of a new law on animal experiments that could affect millions of UK laboratory animals were debated in Parliament yesterday (27 March).

The UK law on lab animal care and use is currently being revised to bring it in line with a new European Directive, and the new legislation has to be ready by 1 January 2013.

Many people, and welfare organisations like the RSPCA, have been deeply concerned that the government may choose to implement the Directive so that the UK law will be watered down in some critically important areas.

RSPCA Senior Scientist Penny Hawkins said: “We are pleased that the government has listened to the public and the RSPCA and maintained current standards in some areas. But these are just the easy options, and we are yet to be convinced on the bigger issues.

"We are still deeply worried that the local ethics committees at laboratories could be weakened and the roles of the Home Office Inspectors may be reduced. We will only be reassured that this government is genuinely concerned about animal welfare when it protects these critically important controls on animal use.”

The RSPCA has also been campaigning for animal housing standards to be retained wherever these are higher in the UK law than the Directive, but was deeply disappointed that the government did not make a firm commitment to maintain these.

Penny said: “Housing standards are already minimal – reducing these still further would be a clear case of unashamedly putting economics before animal welfare. This would completely undermine the statements the Minister made in the debate about the government’s commitment to providing the ‘best possible standards of animal welfare’.”

The RSPCA welcomed some of the statements made by Home Office minister Damian Green during the debate, which expressed the government’s intention to maintain the higher UK standards.

These include:
• inhumane killing methods permitted in the Directive will not be allowed in the UK;
• special justification will still be required for cats, dogs and horses to be used in experiments;
• licences will still be required to carry out experiments on birds and reptiles during the last third of their incubation period – the Directive would have only applied from the time of hatching, which is too late.

During the debate, the Minister stated that there would be a ‘ban’ on the use of Great Apes written into the legislation, but it was not clear whether this would be a complete prohibition, with no possible get-outs.

Penny continued: “Only a total ban on great ape use will satisfy the RSPCA. That is the only acceptable position.”



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