Press release

New plan will work to reduce use of animals in research

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The government outlines how it will work to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research.

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The government has today (7 February 2014) outlined how it will work to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research – known as ‘the 3Rs’. The delivery plan is part of a government commitment to create a science-led approach to reduce the use of animals in the biosciences.

Developed across departments, the plan will contribute to maintaining the UK’s position as the location of choice and a world leader in science and technology. It will ensure better science is delivered alongside the highest levels of welfare for animals used in research.

The UK’s National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has been leading the way in this area, and has already invested over £35 million to support this work. As a result, trials into cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, as well as toxicity testing, have all seen reductions in animal use.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

This delivery plan puts science at the heart of our commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in research. It highlights the important work our life sciences sector is doing to provide a package that is good for patients, animal welfare, the environment and the UK’s economic growth.

Animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives. But the results we get from research can transform lives and pave the way for new and ground breaking medical advances. By encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will not only improve standards of animal welfare but also reduce costs to industry.

Through research and development by the UK’s biosciences sector, the use of cutting-edge technology is fast becoming a realistic alternative to using live animals in labs, in a number of research areas.

Tissue engineering, research using human stem cells, non-invasive imaging and mathematical modelling are among the advances already being embraced.

The plan outlines how the government is promoting the uptake of 3Rs alternatives in research and safety testing.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker, who is leading the Home Office work, said:

I am committed to reducing the use of animals in research. The scientific case for developing new techniques that do not involve animals is as strong as the moral one.

Through our delivery plan, we are showing how alternative methods can provide fast, high-quality research that also boosts economic growth.

Our commitment will pave the way for future practice, both at home and abroad, and will cement the UK’s place as an international leader in this field.

The plan has been developed between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Home Office and the Department of Health with contributions from across government. It builds on existing work, such as the NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines to improve standards of reporting and ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully evaluated and utilised. This is now widely accepted by leading academic journals in biomedical research.

The Technology Strategy Board is also leading work to invest up to £4 million in early stage feasibility studies to help accelerate the development of the uptake of new non-animal technologies. This will give businesses the opportunity to work with the UK’s research base to develop new technologies that could better predict the effect of new drugs in humans and the environment.

Notes to editors:

  1. The plan has been developed between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Home Office and the Department of Health with contributions from across government.

  2. The report is available online at ‘Working to reduce the use of animals in research’.

  3. For more information on the NC3Rs visit www.nc3rs.org.uk.

  4. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 7 February 2014