What Next for Animals in UK Labs?
I’ve just popped down, along with colleagues from other anti-vivisection groups, to meet with Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, the new government’s Home Office minister responsible for regulating animal experiments. Here’s why:
When the new coalition government came into power back in May, our ears pricked up at its commitment to “work to reduce the use of animals in scientific procedures”. As we noted at the time, although the statement was not a promise to actually bring down numbers, it was nevertheless a welcome pledge to address this vitally important issue. That commitment came at a time when the European Union was also nearing the conclusion of its revision of the EU directive regulating animal experiments. As we predicted back in July, the European Parliament voted earlier this month in favour of the most recent version of the law with no amendments, and the legislation was finally signed into EU law last week.
The meeting provided some interesting insights into the government’s thinking – and the start of a process of discussion and consultation that will go on for months. As far as the government’s action on cutting experiments is concerned, it is clear that the government only just started considering its options – which means that there is still plenty to play for! We will be making strong recommendations and won’t let this commitment slip away.
As for the EU directive, the UK has two years to bring it into British law. The government has some flexibility over the directive’s detail and content, so we could see improvements – or, we pray not, steps backward in the protection of animals in UK laboratories. PETA and all the organisations present made the strong case that any reduction in protection for animals would be ethically unacceptable and fly in the face of public opinion. It’s our job now to make sure that the government keeps getting that message loud and clear. I’ll keep you informed of any developments.