HC Deb 08 February 2001 vol 362 cc672-3W
Miss Geraldine Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures his Department has taken to improve animal welfare since May 1997. [148958]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

There have been a number of measures to improve animal welfare since May 1997.

The use of animals in scientific procedures is strictly regulated by what is widely acknowledged to be the toughest legislation of its kind in the world. We are working to ensure that the highest possible standards of animal welfare are applied and that animals are used only where it is fully justified—where the benefits outweigh the costs and where there are no suitable alternatives. To this end we are promoting the fullest application of the 3Rs—the replacement of procedures with others which do not use animals, the reduction of the number of animals used, and the refinement of procedures to minimise pain and suffering.

In addition to our commitment to the 3Rs, the other main individual measures this Government has introduced since the election to ensure that animals are used only where fully justified are as follows. We have: secured a voluntary ban on testing cosmetic finished products on animals; increased the budget made available to the Animal Procedures Committee to sponsor research on alternatives by 45 per cent. to £265,000 for 2000–01; banned the use of animals to test alcohol and tobacco products; increased the size of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate from 18 to 21, and recruited seven new inspectors to fill these and other vacancies; introduced a requirement that all establishments licensed under the 1986 Act have local ethical review processes as a complement to the existing controls under the Act; announced our intention never to allow the use of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees and orang-utans); announced the phasing out of the use of ascitic animals in certain forms of monoclonal antibody production; and ended the licensing of the LD50 test and of tests for skin corrosivity and phototoxic potential where valid alternatives exist. Other support given to animal welfare includes: backing a Private Member's Bill which became the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, a measure aimed at tightening regulation of commercial dog breeding establishments, and issue to local authorities of related detailed guidance; preparation, with the Association of Circus Proprietors, of a code of practice on the care and welfare of animals in travelling circuses; making an order that allows for an indefinite prohibition of the culling of seals on the east coast of England; and participating in the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group which was established last year to ensure that the UK's overall animal welfare strategy is effectively co-ordinated.