Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

New UK law on animal experiments Summer 2012

Posted: 12 July 2012. Updated: 16 March 2013


This year, all EU countries will introduce new legislation on animal experiments in compliance with Directive 2010/63/EU.

The UK Government has trumpeted their big move on lab animal welfare – the UK will not actually dismantle the little protection lab animals have. Sad to see the ambition is so low.

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The long campaign in Europe on these new regulations gained some significant ground; access to information, ending the capture of monkeys by dealers, ways to challenge animal experiments like thematic review, retrospective reviews of experiments. We managed to hold at bay some of the calls from industry, such as complete deregulation of animal research.

The new UK law will be framed by the Directive but there is scope for interpretation. The Directive will govern experiments in countries like the UK, Germany and France where millions of animals die, as well as smaller countries such as Malta. It therefore allows for the details to be tailored to each country; nevertheless the intent of this Directive was to increase not reduce animal protection, improve public transparency and accountability, and move towards replacement of animal experiments.

Whereas, the vivisection industry has attempted to seize on every loophole to make it easier and cheaper to experiment on animals. Despite Home Office boasts about what has been achieved, it has been a long hard battle to retain the little protection currently in place for laboratory animals.

In May, the Government finally announced: “...we propose to ‘copy out’ most of the provisions of the Directive. There are, however, a number of areas in which we intend to retain current stricter United Kingdom standards. For example, we propose to retain special protection for dogs, cats and horses as well as non-human primates and to retain all current UK care and accommodation standards that are stricter than those set out in Annex III to the Directive.”


Key Demands

While participating in the regular Home Office consultations and meetings, we’ve been educating the public and parliament with our ‘Cutting Edge not Knife Edge’ campaign to move policy to non-animal replacement methods. This resulted in 13,000 people participating in last summer’s Home Office public consultation.

In December, a delegation from NAVS, Animal Aid, PETA, Humane Society International, Four Paws, LDF and ADI presented Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone with some key demands. Tim Phillips, NAVS Campaigns Director gave a presentation on each area and later presented them to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare at the House of Commons.

1. No current laboratory animal protection to be downgraded.

2. Greater transparency, accountability, and mechanisms to challenge animal research:

  • More information about animal experimentation made public; with accountability for experimenters and those policing them.
  • Licensing process to be open with mechanisms to challenge animal experiments.
  • Retrospective review of all animal experiments to determine scientific value and true suffering of animals.
  • No blanket secrecy; repeal section 24 (secrecy clause) of the current Act.

3. No reduction in current requirements for the justification of proposed animal experiments.

4. Establish mechanisms for the implementation of alternatives:

  • The licensing process must drive forward the implementation of alternatives – if a non-animal method is available in the UK for all or part of the research it must be used
  • Increase the availability of alternatives.

5. Thematic review of animal experiments to set targets for replacement.

6. Restrictions on use of Non Human Primates in research and ending the wild capture of primates for research.

  • Proscribing certain uses of primates.
  • Early implementation of the prohibition of use of F1 monkeys (born of wild-caught parents).


The Good, Bad & Ugly in the Government’s Proposals

The Government response to the public consultation indicates the direction being taken in several areas.

The good:
The UK will retain standards of husbandry currently exceeding the new Directive. Some inhumane killing methods will still be prohibited. The ban on the use of great apes will remain – the “safeguard clause” exemption allowing special applications for use of apes is not being adopted. The current licensing controls will not be dismantled.

Foetal birds and reptiles will now be protected during the last third of normal development and all cephalopods protected once independently feeding. Animals bred for tissues will be covered.

There are more commitments to the 3Rs (refinement, reduction and replacement) but we’ll need to work to ensure this is not window dressing. There will not be retrospective reviews of all experiments but since there are currently none, the Directive has at least forced a step forward.

The bad and the ugly:

Multiple generic licences will continue to be granted. This already happens with regulatory testing by contract research laboratories like HLS, but can now be expanded to other areas.

There is a loophole on the prohibition of the use of stray or feral animals allowing experiments in certain circumstances.

The time foetal mammals are protected will reduced.

Re-use of animals following procedures classed as ‘severe’ may be allowed.

The ban on F1 primates will be delayed as the Home Office supports a “feasibility study” for the timetable. Another delay – and monkeys will continue to be torn from the wild until a ban is enforced.

Not yet decided:

Thematic review is under consideration and in March, the NAVS submitted a detailed proposal, which has Minister Lynne Featherstone’s support for the concept – specific animal experiments to be reviewed and timetables set for replacement.

The notorious secrecy clause of the current Act, S.24 is on hold, the Home Office wants to decide at a later time.

There are restrictions on primate experiments, but the Home Office will not define what they are; it will go back to the European Commission.

Sadly the proposals indicate no commitment by the Government to seize the opportunity to drive forward the replacement of animal experiments and greater public scrutiny.

Rather, the bare minimum is being undertaken and in some instances advantage has been taken to ease restrictions on animal experiments.

Overall, disappointing and much more pressure is needed on MPs.


Write to your MP, tell them you are:

  • disappointed about the delay on ending use of F1 primates
  • unwarranted delay in overturning the secrecy clause, S.24 of the current Act
  • stray or feral animals are not properly protected
  • more effort is needed for bringing in advanced non-animal methods
  • you want to see implementation of ‘thematic review’, where specific experiments will be examined and timetable set for replacement.

See our list of other demands, above.

Click here to donate now, and help us continue to campaign against the use of animals in laboratories.

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