HC Deb 27 June 1989 vol 155 cc841-936 3.56 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to ban experiments upon animals of dubious or unproven value, including tests for cosmetic and warfare purposes, certain LD50 and Draize eye tests; to empower the Home Secretary to ban further categories and types of animal experiments; to amend the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to ensure that all proposed animal experiments are subject to independent scrutiny to determine their worth and to specific approval by the Home Secretary; and for connected purposes. The continuance of so many useless animal experiments in this country is a public scandal and is against the wishes of the British people. Many of the tests are unnecessary and obsolete. The Government published figures that showed that in 1987 the overall number of scientific procedures was 3,631,393, and that more than 70 per cent. of those were carried out without anaesthetic. That worked out at about 10,000 a day. There will be 70 such procedures in the 10 minutes that I shall address the House. In 1986 there were 3,112,100. The Government decided to adjust seasonally their figures for scientific procedures down to 2,953,900, which is a 5 per cent. reduction on 1986. The House can see, however, that the number is still about 3 million. Therefore, the project system that was introduced in the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 has not significantly reduced the number of animals used. In the Committee on that Bill, 1 proposed bans on useless tests. That is still the most relevant and humane way forward.

My Bill proposes to introduce a ban on cosmetic tests which are useless. In 1987 there were 14,534 such tests. The EEC definition of a cosmetic product is any substance or preparation intended for placing in contact with the various external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or principally to cleansing them, perfuming them or protecting them in order to keep them in good condition, change their appearance or correct body odours. Those products are designed to beautify the hair or skin or to improve the appearance generally. They are products such as creams, lotions, oils, face masks, toilet soaps, perfumes, toilet waters, bath and shower preparations, shaving products, lipsticks, make-up and cleansers, shampoos and sunbathing products. There is a long list of them. However, the public overwhelmingly want a ban on those tests. They see them as being unnecessary, especially as there are already enormous numbers of ingredients capable of doing that work. There does not need to be wholesale new slaughter.

I welcomed Avon's decision last week to ban animal tests in its laboratories. It admitted that that decision was influenced by the consumer boycott. The public want beauty without cruelty. The Home Office is a long way behind the public. It has issued six project licences. However, in a written reply to a question on 24 January about what restraints the animal procedures committee had imposed on those licensees, it was said that that information could be found in a detailed statistical return. That will not stop a single test.

The truth of the matter is that the Home Office has set broad parameters for the granting of project licences, which are being granted to testing laboratories such as Toxical and Hazelton. It is left to the discretion of a laboratory whether the test commissioned by the cosmetic company is justifiable. The APC—the animal procedures committee—is not evaluating each procedure, so the current situation is virtually the same as it was before the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Bill was introduced. It has already been acknowledged that at least two APC members want a ban on such tests. The ingredients for the cosmetic products have been long established and tested through human-experience and there is no need for new tests on animals.

My Bill also calls for a ban on warfare experiments on animals. The Government refuse to provide the number of such tests carried out on animals, but, since 1916, when Porton Down was established, they must have run into millions. Such tests are the most ghastly and cruel experiments ever undertaken in Britain, but the details of them and their number are rarely published, so there is no justification for them. What is even worse is that Porton Down has Crown immunity so that it can get away with what it likes. It was even referred to in "Spycatcher", by Peter Wright, who said: On one occasion I went down to Porton to see a demonstration of a cigarette packet which had been modified by the Explosives Research and Development Establishment to fire a dart tipped with poison. A sheep was bumped off and Peter Wright said: I knew also then that assassination was no policy for peacetime". Animals at Porton Down are being used for such experiments.

Chris Fisher of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, in an excellent article, also says that such tests are unjustified and states: The official justification for continuing with this kind of research goes something like this—in order to be able to defend ourselves against chemical or biological attack, we must first invent the weapon to be used against us so that we can develop a defensive response! This strategy, if it is to be believed, is the equivalent of developing a drug to combat a disease which does not exist yet. In those circumstances, such tests are of no use to the public. Mr. Fisher concludes: the close co-operation between the scientists at Porton and their counterparts in the US and other allied countries meant that they were partners to an offensive research programme. They are not involved in a defensive programme. We should also remember that we have signed treaties to the effect that we will not undertake chemical and biological warfare.

It is also morally indefensible to carry out ballistic tests on animals. The armed forces should use alternatives such as gelatin for still target tests.

My Bill also tackles toxicology experiments such as LD50 and Draize eye tests. It has already been shown that animals are bad models for humans in such tests as unexpected side effects are displayed in humans. Fewer than 50 per cent. of such tests are shown to be accurate. In 1987, 111,313 classical LD50 tests were carried out on animals. Animals were dosed with a substance to determine the level that would kill 50 per cent. of them. The Zurich Institute of Toxicity has said: For the recognition of symptomatology of acute poisoning in man, and for the determination of the human lethal dose, the LD50 in animals is of very little use. FRAME—the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments—has said: it is now widely recognised that the precise LD50 value this method is supposed to provide is an unobtainable illusion, because of a variety of uncontrollable biological variables. Moreover, it has been used to place chemicals in a small number of broad categories (such as very potent, potent, marginal and no significant effect). Such categories are useless, yet animals are being killed in such tests. FRAME has also referred to the former Minister at the Home Office, the hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), who said on 11 March 1986 that the LD50 classical test was rarely used in the United Kingdom, yet more than 111,000 such tests are carried out. So much for its rare use.

In 1987, there were 24,314 Draize tests, in which a substance is dripped into the eye of an animal and left for seven days to that the amount of swelling, soreness and ulceration can be assessed. We could ban Draize immediately. Many companies, such as Health Designs Incorporated and the Noxell corporation, have already developed alternative testing. One alternative is not to do the tests if they are not worth while in the first place. Other alternatives include the use of cell cultures, computer modelling, mild tests on human volunteers and constant and more extensive surveillance of medicines after they have been made available for general prescription. FRAME has produced a long list of alternatives. The Government have put up a mere £60,000, a pathetic amount for studies of alternatives. My Bill would shift the burden of proof to the experimenter.

The Minister and the Government have shown themselves to be uncaring. They will not even label products to show whether tests have been done on animals to allow people to make a choice for themselves. That attitude is morally reprehensible and scientifically dubious. As FRAME said: Animal experiments that are unnecessary use unnecessarily large numbers of animals or are unnecessarily painful"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has spoken for 10 minutes.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Harry Cohen, Ms. Diane Abbott, Mr. Tony Banks, Mr. Harry Barnes, Mr. Gerald Bermingham, Mrs. Ann Clwyd, Mr. Frank Cook, Mr. Don Dixon, Mr. David Hinchliffe, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. Eddie Loyden, and Mr. Robert N. Wareing.

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