HC Deb 16 November 1987 vol 122 cc386-8W
Mr. Greg Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has completed his consideration of the report "The Use of Non-Human Primates as Laboratory Animals in Great Britain"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd

I have completed my consideration of this helpful document. In doing so I have been much helped by the Animal Procedures Committee which has, at my request, made a detailed examination of the report and the proposals in it.

I entirely share the concern for non-human primates which underlies the report. There is a difficult balance to strike between the need to use these animals in some medical and scientific research, and the special care that is needed in looking after them and their increasing scarcity. This joint initiative by the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experimentation and the British Veterinary Association has provided a most helpful opportunity to consider in detail the way in which the new controls under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 may be used to strike this balance correctly. I am pleased to say that I am able to accept many of the recommendations made in the report. The following is a summary of the resultant action which has been taken or is now in hand.

  1. (i) The Home Office is to explore the possibility of encouraging certain establishments where non-human primates are used for scientific or experimental purposes to set up a special course or courses for the benefit of licensees and others who work with non-human primates used for experimentation.
  2. (ii) A detailed breakdown of the use of non-human primates, using a classification scheme suggested in the report will be included in the annual published statistics of procedures carried out under the 1986 Act.
  3. (iii) In examining project licence applications which propose the use of endangered non-human primate species, a high level of proof that the use of such species is necessary will be required for the application to be successful.
  4. (iv) Establishments will be encouraged, wherever practicable, to use non-human primates which have been bred in captivity, as opposed to wild-caught animals.
  5. (v) Establishments will be encouraged to ensure that the lowest possible order of species is used.
  6. (vi) The Animal Procedures Committee will be notified of all projects where the use of non-human hominidae (the gibbon, siamang, the orang-utan, the chimpanzee and the gorilla) is proposed. The committee will have the opportunity, if it wishes, to examine any such application and to advice me of its views on the application.
  7. (vii) When the controls of the 1986 Act are extended to cover establishments which breed or supply non-human primates, such establishments will be required to keep lifetime records for all non-human primates bred at breeding establishments, and for all wild-caught non-human primates lifetime records from the date of importation will be required. Similar records are already required at establishments where non-human primates are used for scientific or experimental purposes authorised under the 1986 Act.
  8. (viii) Particularly close scrutiny will be given to all project licence applications which include proposals to keep primates in isolation.
  9. (ix) The Animal Procedures Committee will be notified of all applications for work involving non-human primates which includes any procedure in the substantial severity category. The committee will have the opportunity to examine any such application and to advise me of its views on the application.

The particular importance of safeguarding non-human primates is recognised in the 1986 Act, section 5(6) of which specifies that a project licence authorising the use of non-human primates (or cats, dogs or equidae) may not be granted unless it is established that animals of no other species are suitable for the purposes of the programme to be specified in the licence or that it is not practicable to obtain animals of any other species that are suitable for those purposes. In addition, we shall do everything possible to ensure that the use of non-human primates is restricted to establishments which provide facilities of a very high standard for their husbandry and welfare.