All the way back in 2002, the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures announced what we at PETA have always known: that animals are "highly imperfect models" for the study of human disease and that it would be "for the benefit of science, and ultimately of human health, if better methods of research and testing could be developed". Given this statement of intent and the current availability of superior research methods, the latest figures released by the Home Office, showing that 4.1 million experiments were conducted on animals in 2012, are nothing short of scandalous.
PETA is stunned to see such a dramatic rise in the number of animals used in experiments in the UK. Statistics just released for 2012 show that the most animals in a generation are dying in laboratories, with increases in areas such as industrial-scale breeding of genetically modified (GM) animals, many of whom are deliberately bred to have painful defects.
The Government must address this animal welfare crisis. The annual report of the Animals in Science Regulation Unit describes 26 cases of non-compliance of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Among other abuses, a mouse underwent an ectopic heart transplantation and was found dead after being neglected over a weekend; 29 birds died from an overdose of a compound because the experimenter failed to check the calculations properly; and five rats were denied analgesia following spinal surgery. It's time to stop defending animal tests in the face of overwhelming evidence of cruelty: it's time to end them.
The Government must keep its promise to reduce the number of animals used in experiments. Refinement and reduction are not enough. We want animals out of laboratories and cutting-edge replacements in. The UK must lead by example in international policy and become a nation respected for its commitment to implementing non-animal research.
Furthermore, Section 24, the confidentiality clause, of the UK law on animal experiments (the Animals Scientific Procedures Act) provides animal experimenters with a cloak of secrecy to hide behind. Members of the public have a right to know what is being done in their name. The Home Office is currently consulting on Section 24, which must be replaced with the Freedom of Information Act.
It's absolutely clear that citizens of the UK are anxious to end the use of animals in experiments. A recent Ipsos MORI poll commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has shown that public opposition to the use of animals in medical testing has grown steadily over the past six years. More than one in three people now identify themselves as "objectors" to the use of animals in medical research. The Government must recognise the strength of public opinion on this issue and take the opportunity to work to increase transparency and end animal experiments.
Today's figures show that the need for an informed public debate has never been greater. High-tech, reliable and relevant non-animal testing methods exist, and more are waiting to be developed, limited only by our willingness and ingenuity.