Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding animal testing. I read your email with interest and agree that this is an important issue.
Animal research still plays a role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.
Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and I know Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved. I am opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches could be used.
I appreciate that you have concerns regarding the licences issued for animal experiments. While you may not agree, I hope I have explained why animal research is undertaken when alternative approaches are not available. However, I understand how strongly you feel about this and therefore will pass on your concerns regarding this issue to the Home Office, in order to ensure your views are heard at the top of Government.
I fully support all steps to establish new methods and to support the life sciences and research industry. Since 2017, the Government has invested around £1 billion through two Life Sciences Sector Deals, helping to generate significant levels of industry investment in the UK. I am committed to making the UK the leading global hub for life sciences. The Life Sciences Investment Programme (LSIP) aims to unlock the potential of the UK’s best health and life science innovations, allowing companies to grow in the UK. This investment programme consists of up to £600 million of joint Government and industry investment.
It is important to remember that, existing scientific research methods ensure that, by the time medicines reach clinical trial, risks are significantly reduced.
Like you, I welcomed the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill to Parliament. This Bill will not only enshrine recognition of animal sentience in domestic law, but will also establish an expert-led Animal Sentience Committee, which will produce reports on the impact of policy decisions on animal welfare. Further, I am pleased that the new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act has enabled tougher prison sentences for the most serious perpetrators of animal cruelty, from the previous maximum of six months to up to five years. The maximum five-year sentence is one of the toughest punishments in Europe, strengthening the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.
I hope this offers you some reassurance that this Government is deeply committed to maintaining the very highest standards of animal welfare in research.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.