More action is needed to end suffering of research animals
As the Home Office announces that more lab animals were involved in research and testing in 2011 than in the past 20 years, we are demanding for more to be done towards reducing both animal numbers and suffering – starting with those animals who currently suffer the most.
The Home Office has announced today (Tuesday, 10 July) that the number of laboratory animals used annually in scientific procedures in the UK has increased yet again, now standing at 3.71 million (used in a total of 3.79 million 'scientific procedures').
'We want the government to commit to ending severe animal suffering'
RSPCA senior scientist, Dr Penny Hawkins, said that reducing numbers is an essential goal, but reducing suffering is just as important while animal use continues.
Each animal bred or used for research, whether a mouse, fish or monkey, is an individual capable of experiencing pain, suffering and distress.
Efforts are being made to improve the way animals are cared for and to reduce suffering in experimental procedures, but much more needs to be done.
Any level of suffering is a concern for the RSPCA, but ending severe suffering is a top priority.
We want the government to commit to ending severe animal suffering and for scientists to focus on changing these procedures so they cause as little pain and psychological suffering as possible.
New UK animal research law includes progress in this area
A new UK law regulating animal research comes into force on 1 January 2013.
It will include a requirement for the suffering experienced by each animal to be assessed and reported following every experiment.
This represents progress, as the current system just requires researchers to report an estimate of the 'average' level of suffering caused during each project.
'Better information on actual animal suffering is essential'
We often hear statements that most animal experiments cause minimal suffering.
But in fact we simply don't know how much suffering is actually caused, or how many animals suffer severely.
The RSPCA has long argued that better information on actual animal suffering is essential, both for public accountability and so that efforts to reduce suffering can be properly focused where they are needed most.
Concerns over under-reporting the suffering of research animals
But observing and understanding animal behaviour is not always straightforward. And we are also concerned that suffering may be under-reported due to concerns about public acceptance of animal use.
Researchers using animals are going to be responsible for judging and reporting the actual level of lifetime suffering. So it is critically important that all suffering is properly recognised and assessed.
We hope that the scientific community will approach this with open minds and it will probably take time to get it right.
But every step forward in reporting suffering will be welcome, as right now we're pretty much in the dark.
Please support our pledge to lab animals
We have pledged to reduce the number of animals in the UK who undergo severe suffering when used in experiments.
We know there is very strong public opinion about the use of animals in experiments and you can really help us to achieve our pledge.
Find out more about our work to improve the welfare of laboratory animals and what you can do to help.
Take our pledge today.
We can't do it without you. Thank you.