Must anti aging drugs rely on animal testing?
The use of animals in scientific research, including in the development of cosmetics and medicine, has long been a matter of contention.
Researchers argue that the developments of products to tackle both the effects of ageing or treat a wide range of illnesses must rely on animals in the laboratory.
Animal rights campaigners, on the other hand, contend that such practices are cruel and unnecessary.
Now, the UK Government is stepping up its efforts to reduce the use of animals, replacing them with other methods wherever possible.
Working through the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Government Office for Science, Whitehall has issued guidance that aims to tighten up the use of animals.
Additional input has come from other government departments including the Department of Health, and government agencies including Public Health England, the Medicines and the Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) also made a major contribution as did the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and departmental Chief Scientific Advisers, as well as experts from academia, research councils and government advisory committees.
According to the politicians, the key challenge is to balance the need of researchers with much public belief that the use of animals in research must reduce.
In the foreword to the latest Government guidance, published in Spring 2014, David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, Lord Taylor of Holbeach CBE Lords Minister and Minister for Criminal Information and the Rt Hon Earl Howe Minister for Quality in the Department of Health, say: “The Programme for Government commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in research brings together the UK’s long tradition of support for animal welfare alongside its strength in science and innovation.
“This document provides more detail on how we will continue to deliver our commitment while maintaining and reinforcing our position at the forefront of global science and innovation.
“In this plan, we bring together new and existing initiatives for promoting the widespread adoption of scientific and technological advances which present significant opportunities to replace animal use, to reduce the number of animals used and to refine the procedures involved so as to find additional ways to minimise suffering.
“Delivery of this plan is not simply a challenge for the Government and its agencies. If we are to be successful we need to enhance our partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including the research community in both academia and industry and others with relevant animal research and welfare interests.
“The UK is seen as a leader, globally, in the adoption of the 3Rs. This gives us a real opportunity to accelerate the international uptake of scientifically valid alternatives in research and safety testing. This work is very challenging and often involves agreement at intergovernmental level. However, the reward is to effect reductions in the volume of animal experiments on a scale well above what can be achieved by domestic action alone.
“It will also benefit the UK Life Sciences sector (a key component of the Government’s Industrial Strategy) by ensuring that strict application of UK regulations does not simply export experiments abroad. Similarly, harmonising standards internationally will ensure that UK companies with high welfare standards are not shut out of large developing economies which may currently demand additional animal testing not required by most states.
“Transparency and openness about the use of animals in research, and why their continued use remains necessary, helps to improve our overall understanding about the issue, enables an informed public dialogue and can help to mitigate anxieties and misunderstandings.”