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UK Government plans to lift the long-standing ban on experiments on stray animals

UK Government plans to lift the long-standing ban on experiments on stray animals


UK Government threatens to weaken laws on animal testing

Last month (May 2012), the Home Office finally responded to last summer’s public consultation exercise on how to implement the new EU Directive on animal experimentation (2010/63/EU). This critical law will replace the current Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and set the scene for animal experiments for a generation to come, directly affecting the welfare and lives of about 100 million animals in the UK alone. Uncaged’s expert analysis can exclusively reveal that the Government intends to further weaken most regulations, leading to more unnecessary pain and suffering for animals.

The Home Office response combines vague (and therefore meaningless) rhetoric about maintaining current standards - with contradictory specific intentions to lower minimum legal requirements to the level found in the Directive. This exemplifies Government and industry tactics on this issue for many years – say one thing in public but behind closed doors do precisely the opposite. This probably explains why instant comments on the Home Office response misinterpreted it as intending to maintain current levels of regulation (which are actually very weak). Our detailed analysis shows that to be naïve.

For example, the Government has caved into demands by a 'limited’ number of researchers to open the door to experiments on abandoned/stray dogs and cats, snubbing the call from just about everyone else (including many involved in animal research industry) to maintain the complete ban on such experiments. While this may be a relatively peripheral issue compared to the whole problem of animal experimentation, it illustrates the bias in the Government’s overall approach: the interests of researchers, no matter how trivial or tenuous, are almost always allowed to trump the most vital interests of animals not to be subjected to pain, suffering, distress and killing.

On the positive side, we have managed to force a U-turn on previous proposals to allow new-born puppies and kittens to be clubbed to death, and the Government says it intends to retain some existing UK minimum cage sizes rather than implement smaller minimum standards in the Directive. While any apparent movement from the Government on behalf of animal protection is a rare beast indeed, these exceptional cases illustrate the overall rule. Retaining the slightly better existing UK rules will barely inconvenience researchers working to current laws. For example, breeding and research establishments would not bother to spend money on installing new smaller cages.

Uncaged has a funny feeling that the Government may be hanging on to a few ‘small’ controversial measures that they can then back down on to give the impression of neutrality, while retaining all the really important core changes that give more power to researchers and prevent accountability. But the Government’s insulation of animal research from public scrutiny will exacerbate unnecessary cruelty, welfare crimes and futile research.

The Devil in the Detail

Key UK Government threats include:

  1. Loopholes in plans for the new law seem to always favour researchers rather than animal protection
  2. Refusing to ban animal experiments where death is the endpoint, snubbing welfare groups again in favour of research interests (Article 13, p19 of HO Response)
  3. Won't explicitly rule any animal experiments out, no matter how severe and prolonged the pain - another industry win (Article 15, p22)
  4. Proposing to weaken pain limits on reuse of animals, as demanded by industry & opposed by welfare groups (Article 16, p23)
  5. Intends to lower minimum standards for ethical review bodies at animal research labs (Article 26, p33)
  6. Equivocal on whether to implement loopholes exempting animal labs from having to provide adequate housing, food, water and husbandry etc. (Article 33, p37)
  7. States will pass law allowing massive cuts in animal lab inspections - just once every three years (Article 34, p38)
  8. Most respondents wanted all animal research projects to be retrospectively reviewed, a key measure to weed out poor science and unnecessary cruelty – Home Office say they'll only do 20% (Article 39, p42)
  9. Also proposing to rubber-stamp multiple toxicology animal tests, bypassing the fundamental harm-benefit test and checks against duplication. Consequence: yet more unnecessary suffering. This measure is all about saving contract research labs a few quid, regardless of the ethics of the animal tests. (Article 40, p44)

The new Directive could have positive impacts on some of the most important processes, such as how proposed animal research projects will be ‘ethically’ evaluated and lifting the current iron curtain of secrecy over this policy area. This secrecy and corresponding lack of accountability allows researchers to treat the regulatory system with contempt, leading to illegal suffering and painful experiments that would scandalise the public.

There is no doubt that opening up animal research to effective public scrutiny would save a considerable proportion of the animals currently sacrificed in research labs. It is therefore a cause for concern that the Government is dragging its heels on addressing these critical questions. These decisions will be absolutely crucial for the future of animal protection and humane, effective science. We expect the Government to make announcements on these in the next few months.


  1. Please write to your MP immediately. Click here to email your MP. We have a sample letter text here, but please personalise.

  2. The most effective thing you can do to protect defenceless animals is to go and see your MP in person at their constituency surgery. Contact their office to make an appointment.


Uncaged Campaigns 25.06.12


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.