HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1441-2
18. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Home Office return of experiments performed under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 in respect of experiments performed during 1972, in comparison with the statistics for 1970 and 1971.

Mr. Lane

The number of experiments, which had remained fairly constant in the years 1970 and 1971, decreased by about 5 per cent. in 1972. This is a welcome reduction, but it would be unwise to attach particular significance to a single year's figures.

Mr. Chapman

I welcome the reduction of 300,000 in the number of experiments on animals in the last year. Nevertheless, does my hon. Friend realise that over 5¼ million experiments were conducted and that 86 per cent. of the animals involved were not given anaesthetics? Although a certain number of experiments on animals may be necessary, does not my hon. Friend feel that 5¼ million is far too high a figure?

Mr. Lane

I know that there are strong feelings on this matter. A figure of 5 million experiments is large, but we must keep the matter in perspective and appreciate the benefits obtained, both by human beings and by animals, from these experiments. The system is administered with strong safeguards, which we watch all the time. The declining trend is welcome.

Mr. Burden

Will my hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary to take into consideration the fact that the Act of Parliament governing vivisection is almost 100 years old and that the conditions envisaged in that legislation are quite different from those which obtain today? Is it not time that this matter was looked at again and the legislation brought up to date?

Mr. Lane

We shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said. I know that he has paid a great deal of attention to this matter over a number of years. I repeat that the system of control and supervision is a strong one and we have no evidence that it is being abused.