UK Government Minister says animal research is ‘vital tool’ for developing new treatments

Patrick Grady, the shadow Scottish National Party spokesman on International Development, recently asked the Government in parliamentary question, on 26th October 2015, if they would “issue a response to EDM 373, Applying Results of Experiments on Animals to Humans.”

Early Day Motion’s (EDMs) are regularly used by lobbyists to push their agenda, however their actual impact is minimal. EDM373 is the product of campaigning group, For Life on Earth which runs under a multitude of names including Patients Campaigning for Cures, NO to Animal Experiments, Oppose B&K Universal, Speaking of human based research and more. The group is inspired by the writing of Dr Ray Greek, and his Trans-Species Modeling Theory (a theory that few have heard of and even fewer subscribe to).

The EDM is the third time the motion has been made in three years (in 2014/15 it was EDM22, in 2013/14 it was EDM263) – with essentially the same message:

That this House notes the science-based campaign, For Life On Earth, which is critical of avoidable experiments on animals; further notes the new initiative, Patients Campaigning For Cures, which opposes animal models on medical grounds; is alarmed that scientific studies reveal that the widespread claimed ability of animals to predict human responses to drugs and disease is demonstrably false; acknowledges that over 90 per cent of drugs which test well in animals harm or otherwise fail humans, and that ignoring this has delayed cures including penicillin; notes that using animals to model humans contradicts currently accepted science, including evolutionary biology and genetics, which supports personalised medical care; further acknowledges the proclamation of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research to develop communications with the media and public; and calls for thorough, properly moderated public scientific debate on the misleading and costly practice of trying to apply results from animal experiments to human patients.

So we have the usual myths about 90% failure rates, penicillin, and delays in other treatments. There is also typical Ray Greek-inspired fluff about “currently accepted science”. Their demands for a debate might be reasonable (though debating and science are very different kettles of fish), though the conditions being set on the terms for this debate are not (see the last response from Understanding Animal Research on this subject).

Thankfully, the UK Government wasn’t falling for it. Jo Johnson MP, British Minister of State for Universities and Science, gave a strong response to the parliamentary question.

The Government considers that the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work and in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies.

At the same time, the Government believes that animals should only be used when there is no practicable alternative and it actively supports and funds the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs), in particular through funding for the National Centre for the 3Rs, and also through ongoing UK-led efforts to encourage greater global uptake of the 3Rs.

Advances in biomedical science and technologies – including stem cell research, in vitro systems that mimic the function of human organs, imaging and new computer modelling techniques – are all providing new opportunities to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research. As part of this, Innovate UK is awarding £4m this year to fund collaborative projects with industry to support the development and application of new non-animal technologies.

EU and UK law requires safety testing on animals before human trials for new medicines can begin and animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines.

The Early Day Motion (EDM 373) rightly draws attention to the UK life science sector’s Concordat on openness in animal research which was launched last year, and provides new opportunities for transparency and debate in this area. www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/news/communications-media/concordat-annual-report-2015/.

Jo Johnson MP tours Cardiff University

Jo Johnson MP tours Cardiff University

Importance of animal research, use and development of alternatives and strict regulations are all mentioned in the response.

This question comes days after the UK Government released the annual statistics on animal research showing a slight dip in the number of procedures carried out.

Speaking of Research

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