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Animal tests to go on

Animal experiments to test new cosmetics are to continue despite pledges to ban them made by Tony Blair during the general election, writes Jason Bennetto.

Labour has also reneged on promises - contained in an official policy document - to set up a Royal Commission into the issue and to reduce the number of animals used. Government funding of research into alternatives to animal testing is being cut by pounds 60,000 to pounds 197,000 next year.

The Home Office, however, is to increase the number of inspectors used to check laboratories and breeding farms, and to introduce a tougher code of practice with better training for animal workers. Any site using animals will have to give details of what alternatives it has considered.

News that Labour has gone back on its promise to act on animal testing has dismayed anti-vivisection campaigners.

About 2,800 animals, mostlyrabbits, guinea pigs and rats, were used last year to test cosmetics for problems such as irritation or effects on the reproductive system. The vast bulk of animals - 2.7 million last year - are used for medical research, pharmaceuticals, and testing military defensive equipment.