21/05/2004

Animals used in scientific experiments get welfare centre

A national centre for animal research and welfare will be established to help replace, refine and reduce the use of animals for scientific purposes, the government announced today.

The centre, which will be known as the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, will report to the Office of Science and Technology. The Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research will form the core of the new centre.

The UK already has one of the most rigorous licensing systems for animal experimentation in the world under the auspices of the Home Office. But new scientific developments are providing more opportunities to do work on: replacing animal use; refining the procedures involved to minimise suffering; and reducing the number of animals used.

Funding will double from £330,000 to £660,000 this financial year. Further increases are expected.

Most of the best-known drugs and surgical treatments - such as kidney dialysis and transplant surgery - owe their origins in some way to evidence from animal studies.

Announcing the centre, Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury said: "While I believe that animals still need to be used in research and testing, I also believe strongly that a major opportunity now exists to make progress in replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals and improving their welfare."

Home Office Minister Caroline Flint said the use of animals in scientific procedures was only allowed where "absolutely necessary".

"It is vital we maintain the good progress that has already been made on replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals wherever possible," she said.

"The centre will also lead the important work on promoting the welfare of animals used in scientific procedures."

(gmcg)

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