Committing to the three Rs

18 July 2011

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Category: Animal welfare & alternatives

how–mouse-and-petri-dish.jpgThe UK Home Office this morning agreed arrangements to deliver two Coalition commitments relating to the use of animals in scientific research: to end the testing of household products on animals; and to work to further reduce the use of animals in scientific research.

In a written statement, the Minister, Lynne Featherstone, said that the commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research will be delivered through a science-led programme led by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

She also stressed that government was committed to all three Rs - reduction, replacement and refinement.

In response to the written statement, Professor Frances Balkwill, Chair of Understanding Animal Research, said:

'Scientists across the UK are committed to the 3 Rs – reduction, replacement and refinement – to reduce animal use and promote best practice in the care of laboratory animals. Much progress has already been made by the research community to reduce animal use. Investment in biomedical research has more than doubled over the last 15 years, while animal studies have increased by little more than one third. This clearly demonstrates that 3Rs policies are working.'

'In safety studies in particular, there has been a welcome fall in animal use. Here the number of animal procedures has almost halved since 1996. There are two main reasons for this. First is the development and validation of replacement tests, where more than 30 alternative methods for assessing safety have been scientifically validated and two thirds have so far been accepted by the regulators. Second, more non-animal pre-screens have been developed and adopted, which means that more compounds can be eliminated before they reach the pre-clinical animal testing stage.'

'Other modern methodologies and hi-tech developments that have resulted in reduced use of animals in research include molecular biology, tissue engineering, computer simulations, the Diamond Synchrotron and human studies like microdosing.'

'We recognise that there still needs to be more effort to develop and validate non-animal tests. The news that the Home Office is increasing its commitment to the 3Rs through the work of the NC3Rs will be welcomed across the research community.'

On the commitment to end the testing of household products on animals, Lynne Featherstone said that this will be implemented using the licensing powers provided under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, by adding a condition to relevant project licences. She commented:

'Before implementing the licence condition, I propose to consult with establishments holding relevant project licences to confirm the economic impact. I propose also to consult with establishments, relevant trade bodies and other stakeholders to agree a working definition of household product to accompany the condition.'

In recent years there has been very little use of animals in the UK to test household products.