HC Deb 23 May 2002 vol 386 cc554-5W
Norman Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of animal experiments carried out in the last year for which figures are available were mandatory, pursuant to legislative requirements and where the use of non-animal alternatives would not have met those requirements. [57924]

Angela Eagle

[holding answer 22 May 2002]: Under the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, animals can only be used in licensed scientific procedures when there is no alternative way to achieve the objective concerned, such as testing products using computer models, cell cultures and other in vitro methods. Animals are only used where fully justified and where the benefits outweigh the costs to the animals involved.

The Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain 2000, the last year for which figures are available, records that procedures for toxicological purposes—the category where legislative testing requirements usually apply—accounted for 17 per cent. of all procedures started in 2000. This proportion compares with 20 per cent. in 1999 and 25 per cent. in 1995.

The majority of these toxicology/safety procedures (some 84 per cent.)—amounting to just over 14 per cent. of all procedures carried out in all categories—were performed to conform to legislative requirements. The procedures of this type carried out for non-legislative purposes include studies for refinement or replacement of live animal use in safety testing, as well as ecological studies.

It may be additionally worth noting that pharmaceutical safety/efficacy evaluation purposes accounted for 60 per cent. of all procedures for toxicology, other safety and efficacy evaluations, and that no procedures were performed in 2000 for the purpose of evaluating the safety of either cosmetic products or ingredients.

Norman Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to require the numbers of animals bred for experimentation purposes but subsequently found to be unsuitable for such purposes or surplus to requirements to be included in the annual statistics on animal use under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. [57925]

Angela Eagle

[holding answer 22 May 2002]: The published annual statistics relate solely to animals used in scientific procedures regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This meets the requirement, in section 21 of the Act, to provide related information to Parliament.

With the exception of the production of genetically modified animals—which is itself a regulated procedure—the number of animals bred but not eventually used for scientific purposes has not been considered appropriate for inclusion in these statistics. The Government have at present no plans to change that.

The Animal Procedures Committee looked at the issue of the over-breeding of animals for use in scientific procedures as part of its 10-year review of the 1986 Act. It concluded that although some over-breeding was unavoidable, it can and should be minimised, and it recommended principles of best practice to help to achieve this.

The committee also undertook to liaise with the Laboratory Animal Science Association, which has also been considering the issue of over-breeding and how it can be minimised, to refine these principles before finalising its advice. I expect to receive the Committee's report by the summer and will carefully consider the further advice it provides.