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Animal Experiments

Home Office written question – answered on 14th March 2016.

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Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what progress she has made on reducing the number of genetically modified animals bred for experiments but killed as surplus to requirements.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), the breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals is generally classed as a scientific procedure given that it must be assumed that the genetic alteration may cause suffering until proven otherwise. Given the significant contribution GA animals make to modern scientific progress, the breeding of such animals has increased significantly over the last 20 years. In 2014, 1.94 million GA animals were bred which accounted for around half of all scientific procedures on living animals.

The breeding of GA animals is complex in which significant numbers of animals need to be bred in order that those with the desired genetic alteration can be selected. The biological inevitability therefore is that surplus animals, for example those without the desired genetic alteration, will be bred and not further used. Nevertheless, under ASPA, the Home Office is committed to ensuring that no animals should be bred unnecessarily and therefore we are taking steps to ensure that GA breeding colonies are managed as efficiently as possible.

ASPA requires licensees to apply the principles of the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) at all times, including in the context of the production and use of GA animals. The framework was created in consultation with GA breeding experts as well as animal welfare and animal protection groups. It provides background information, lines of enquiry and examples of acceptable findings, as well as the underlying performance standards and potential performance outcomes that establishments may wish to measure in order to benchmark their progress.

The framework is currently being rolled out in a number of establishments and we aim to publish it on our website over the coming months. This approach places the UK as a leader in managing the complex breeding and use of GA animals and we are aware of other countries which are keen to adopt our model once published.

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