Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

UK lab rules update Winter 2011

Posted: 2 December 2011. Updated: 16 March 2013

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As reported in recent issues of Animal Defender, the UK Government is currently re-drafting legislation on animal experiments following the adoption of a new European Directive, 2010/63/EU.
The 25 year old Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 will be replaced with new rules based on the principles laid down in the Directive.
European Member States can choose to either adopt the bare minimum of standards in the Directive, or they can maintain the UK’s higher standards, where they exist. NAVS is campaigning hard to maintain these standards, but also for stricter measures in key areas.

NAVS has met with Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone, held several consultation meetings with officials, and participated in a Home Office public consultation.
An important part of our lobbying of both the UK Government and MPs is for the introduction of specific mechanisms to replace the use of animals in research and testing and also, where animals are used, for greater protection of laboratory animals and restrictions on their use.
One of these measures would be the introduction of a system of thematic review of specific animal experiments or animal use. Therefore we pressed for inclusion of a question on ‘thematic reviews’ of animal experiments in the public consultation, which was subsequently included.
Thematic review is an important step-wise approach to the replacement of the use of animals in research and testing. It would allow binding targets to be set, which has proved to be effective in other areas, for example testing of cosmetics on animals (more on thematic review below).

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Ten key policy targets
The NAVS has described ‘top ten’ key steps we are urging the Coalition Government to take, and for MPs to support, which would move UK legislation toward the principal goal of Directive 2010/63/EU, which is: “full replacement of procedures on live animals for scientific and educational purposes”.
These ten simple demands would, if adopted by the government, show a real commitment to phasing out the use of animals in laboratories:-

  • Ban animal testing of household products.
  • No weakening of the UK’s existing animal protection measures; where we have stricter measures, these must be maintained.
  • Commit to replacing experiments conducted on monkeys in UK laboratories.
  • End the capture of wild monkeys by laboratory dealers.
  • Set clear limits on the pain laboratory animals are allowed to suffer.
  • Increase the transparency of decision making and public accountability on animal experiments, before permission is granted for animal use.
  • Increase compulsory data sharing to prevent unnecessary experiments.
  • Establish a UK co-ordinating body to both develop and validate non-animal replacement methods.
  • Ensure the effective implementation of non-animal methods – if these are available, they must be used.
  • Institute a system of regular ‘thematic reviews’ of specific animal experiments or uses of animals – all stakeholders to be involved (including NAVS), to examine candidate experiments and set deadlines for replacement.

Government Consultation
The three-month Home Office public consultation provided the opportunity for input and opinions on the government’s plans. The responses to the consultation will feed into the final proposals that the minister will lay before parliament.
Responses from expert groups such as NAVS, Lord Dowding Fund and ADI, as well as members of the public, were invited and we provided supporters with postcards and letters to enable them to contribute to the consultation, as well as write to their MP to press for a full parliamentary and public debate once proposals are laid before parliament.

Will there be public debate?
An extremely important matter for debate will be the method the Coalition Government chooses to transpose the provisions of Directive 2010/63/EU into UK law.
Currently, the Home Office has indicated that government lawyers are considering the use of the European Communities Act, which would allow the minister to write the legislation and place it before parliament as ‘secondary legislation’ (or statutory instrument); this means that parliament would not be permitted to debate each provision of the legislation. parliament would only be allowed a ‘yes/no’ vote.
This would also have the effect of shutting down a good deal of public input and debate.
The NAVS is pressing for the minister to introduce the legislation in such a way so as to allow public and parliamentary input and full discussion of the new law.
The government’s lawyers are looking at the options and plan to make a recommendation to ministers by the end of 2011, with legislation to follow in the spring of 2012.
The deadline for the transposition of the Directive into UK law is November 2012, and all EU Member States will have to apply the provisions as of 1st January 2013.
The suffering of animals in research is highly controversial and arouses enormous public concern. It is vital that MPs and public have the opportunity to comment on the proposals.

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