§ Mr. McCrindle
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration has been given to reducing the number of animals used in any one experiment; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
This is a matter of great concern to the Government. Advances are continually being made in reducing the numbers of animals used in safety or potency testing and the Government welcome any further developments consistent with the maintenance of safety standards for man and animals. Existing controls are strict and it is regular practice for the numbers of animals in certain types of experiment to be limited as a condition of the licence. A feature of the project licensing system, which will be introduced under new legislation to replace the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, will be a requirement for an applicant to specify as accurately as possible the number of animals he proposes to use. Both the independent scientific assessor to whom the project will be referred and the inspector will be able to challenge numbers if they think there is a possibility of poor experimental design or other animal wastage. I am confident that the new controls will be even more successful in ensuring that animals are not used unnecessarily. The number of animals used in experiments has shown a most welcome reduction in recent years from 5,385,575 in 1977 to 4,221,801 in 1982.
§ Mr. McCrindle
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what alternatives to experimentation on animals are being investigated and evaluated; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
I understand that a number of firms and organisations are actively trying to reduce the number of animals used in experiments and to develop and evaluate alternatives. All scientists working with living animals are regularly reminded of the need to seek and adopt alternatives wherever possible. In recent years there have been a number of developments in the use of isolated organs and cell and tissue cultures and the Government welcome these. In particular we warmly welcome the work of the fund for the replacement of animals in medical experiments. A proposal for Government financial assistance to FRAME is under active consideration at the moment.4W
Under the proposed new legislation, all applicants for project licences will be required to consider the use of non-sentient alternatives and it is not envisaged that work would be licensed for which there was a valid alternative.
Mr. McCrindle asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration has been given to the reduction of doses placed in animals' eyes during experiments; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
The Government are concerned that eye irritancy tests should be performed only when absolutely necessary, and then only using the lowest dose which will produce valid data. All animals used in eye tests are protected by the standard condition attached to licences that they shall not suffer severe pain which is likely to endure. Published guidance, such as the DHSS guidelines for the testing of chemicals for toxicity, reminds scientists of the desirability of in vitro tests to ensure that severe corneal irritants are not applied to animals' eyes. Where it is necessary to test substances which have passed the initial screening, which may include chemical tests or tests on the skin or isolated eye, the precise dose in any particular case must be a matter for the scientists responsible for designing the test or in accordance with any regulatory protocols.
Licensees in general are fully aware of the desirability of using low doses wherever possible and of devising non-sentient alternatives to eye irritancy tests. There is active research in this area both in this country and abroad, and the Government welcome any advances that can be made. Under our proposals for new legislation, all eye irritancy tests will have to be specifically authorised.