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UK minister: 'End animal testing'

LibDem MP Norman Baker says there is an economic case for finding an alternative

Testing products, including drugs, on animals should stop and that there is an economic case - as well as a moral one - for doing so, according to a senior UK politician.

The comments by UK Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker carry some weight: as part of his remit as UK home office minister Baker is responsible for regulating how animals are used in science.

In issuing licences for scientific projects, the Home Office has the task of balancing what an experiment hopes to achieve against the suffering which it will cause the animal.

“I am firmly of the belief it is not simply a moral issue but that we as a nation can get a strategic advantage from this, something that will be good for the economy,” Baker told BBC News. “I have been encouraging the industry to come up with alternatives to animal testing.”

However, pharma relies on animal experimentation to develop some products and says that certain advances in human health have only been possible due to such work.

UK pharma trade body the ABPI said the need to ensure that the country's pharma industry remains competitive globally meant that “it is vital that it balances the importance of animal welfare with public health needs”.

“By law, all new medicines must first be tested on animals, in order to ensure patient safety,” the ABPI said in a statement. “It is important to note that animals are only used in medical research when absolutely necessary and unavoidable, after ethical review - in situations where appropriate alternatives are not available.”

Baker says that legislation will be introduced before the next election which could allow people to find out what actually happens in animal experiments - information that is often withheld by law.

Animal rights campaigners want more transparency around this. “We argue that whether one's for or against them, we can only have a serious discussion if we actually know what's being done,” said British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) chief executive Michelle Thew.

1st August 2014

From: Regulatory

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