Petition End the use of animals for toxicity tests & prioritise non-animal methods (NAMs)
Radically divert funding and evolve policy to implement the use of NAMs in all regulatory toxicity tests. Actively encourage use of NAMs, noting that this data is of superior human relevance compared to animal tests data. Establish clear pathways to develop & validate NAMs and end the use of animals
In 2021, 302,423 animals were used in regulatory tests, including 2,431 dogs and 1956 primates, primarily in legally required ‘tick box’ safety/toxicity studies. Yet, animal tests cannot reliably predict human responses to chemicals or pharmaceuticals, or provide adequate information regarding safety and efficacy. Evidence shows NAMs to be more predictive of human biology, more economically advantageous via new prospects in scientific innovation, and prevent the suffering of millions of animals.
This response was given on 24 May 2023
The Government is already supporting technologies to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research and we will continue to review funding for non-animal methods as part of our normal processes.
Read the response in full
The pace of technology in modelling is creating new opportunities to replace some traditional animal “models” and the Government is already supporting and accelerating advances in biomedical science and technologies to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research and importantly to avoid some of the scientific limitations of animal models of human diseases. We will continue to review funding for non-animal methods as part of our normal processes. Although we all want to reduce and, as far as possible, replace the use of animals in scientific procedures with non-animal alternatives for human safety and it is still necessary to rely on some testing through the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research.
The UK has a strict regime of regulations to avoid unnecessary testing. Under UK law no animal testing may be conducted except for a permissible purpose if there is no non-animal alternative available, where the number of animals used is the minimum needed to achieve the scientific benefit, and where the potential harm to animals is limited to that needed to achieve the scientific benefit. These purposes include: to assess the safety of medicines or chemicals; protect the environment; allow the development of medicines; and conduct basic scientific research to understand how biological systems and processes work. The use of animals in such testing is strictly limited to purposes that are necessary to achieve the scientific benefits.
Animal testing is required by all global medicines regulators, including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to protect humans and the wider environment. Without the testing of potential medicines on animals the development, registration and marketing of new, safe, and effective medicines would not be possible. The animal species for testing of potential medicines are specifically chosen to give as much human relevant information as possible and to avoid species specific reactions which would not predict human effects. Many products which would be unsafe or ineffective in humans are detected through animal testing thus avoiding harm to humans.
Toxicity and safety testing provides important information into the biological effect of substances which enable precautions to be taken to protect humans, animals and the environment from adverse effects of products used in medicine, industry, agriculture and households. In the UK it is required by law that all new drugs are tested within two species. This is done to protect humans as the comparative data from both species allows researchers to be confident that toxic effects will be identified in the pre-clinical stages of testing. This approach ensures the safety of healthy volunteers who take part in clinical trials as well as patients who will take the medication.
The UK has a world-leading reputation for the delivery of the 3Rs principles: that is to, as far as possible, replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research. This is a model that is being replicated internationally. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is strongly committed to the 3Rs and provides core funding for the National Centre for 3Rs (NC3Rs), which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of 3Rs technologies and ensure that advances in the 3Rs are reflected in policy, practice and regulations on animal research. The NC3Rs is widely recognised as being world leading, supporting research and innovation that provides researchers in academia and industry with technologies that are more predictive, cost-effective and humane than current animal models. Since it was established, the NC3Rs has invested £77 million in research and almost £27 million in contracts through its CRACK IT Challenges innovation scheme to UK and EU-based institutions, mainly focusing on new approaches for the safety assessment of pharmaceuticals and chemicals that reduce the use of animals.
Programmes funded by the NC3Rs have both identified problems and found innovative solutions through science led approaches and alongside others, they have developed a Non-Animal Technologies Roadmap setting out a 2030 vision and strategy for how non-animal technologies could be used to replace the use of animals in research across a number of sectors. The NC3Rs has also set out its strategy to increase the focus on animal replacement technologies as well as championing high standards in animal research. Further information is available at: https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/news/nc3rs-publishes-its-strategy-next-three-years
Department for Science, Innovation & Technology
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