RSPCA demands greater action to reduce the use and suffering of lab animals

Sunday 24 April marks World Day for Laboratory Animals

More than 100 million animals are used around the world each year in research and testing.

In the lead-up to World Day for Laboratory Animals, the RSPCA is highlighting the need for much more action to reduce the impact of science on animals.

Each year in the UK around 4 million animals are used in scientific research. This represents an enormous number of individuals, all capable of suffering – 100 times the 40,000 people who will run in Sunday’s London Marathon.

The number rises to approximately 11.5 million animals across the European Union and more than 100 million animals worldwide.

The RSPCA believes that much more should be done to reduce lab animal use and suffering and is today calling on the scientific community to take five essential actions:

?        More efforts to replace (or avoid) animal experiments, including much faster assessment, acceptance and use of humane alternatives.

?        More critical scrutiny of the value of animal ‘models’ and tests, especially by the bodies that fund animal research.

?        Immediate actions to stop poorly designed and reported animal experiments from being carried out and published.

?        No more claims that animals are used and cared for according to ‘best practice’ unless labs can supply proof that they really are doing this – as opposed to complying with the minimum standards required by law.

?        Far greater honesty and openness about the harms experienced by animals used in research, and the limitations of animal experiments, instead of simply highlighting the benefits.

Dr Penny Hawkins, Head of the RSPCA’s Research Animals team, said: “Replacing animal experiments, reducing suffering and improving animal welfare are all essential in a humane society that also wants to benefit from good science. The days when the scientific community could get away with paying lip service to concerns about animal use are over. Many scientists, animal technologists and vets are stepping up and working together to address serious ongoing problems with animal research, but this varies greatly and it is time for everyone to commit to reducing animal use and suffering.”

Penny continues: “New biotechnologies, such as 3D printing techniques to create artificial bones and blood vessels, and the ability to directly ‘edit’ genes, are generating new animal experiments at a pace that can vastly outstrip the public debate on what is acceptable, and for what purpose.  The RSPCA would like to see much more progress with technologies such as ‘organ-on-a-chip’, which can use biotechnology to replace animal experiments – this has to be the goal for the 21st century.”

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