The RSPCA has reacted strongly to debate in the media about the transport of animals for research.
Following reports that the international transport of lab animals is being reduced by airline and ferry companies, some astonishing claims were made in the media yesterday (14 March) about the need for animal experiments.
Dr Maggy Jennings, head of the RSPCA’s Research Animal Department, said, “Transport of animals around the world, whatever the reason, is a huge concern for the RSPCA because of the significant distress it causes.
â€œIn this case, the reason for the transport â€“ the use of animals in experiments and the suffering this can cause – makes it an even more serious concern for the RSPCA and for the public alike.
“However, it is the underlying issue of animal research that must be tackled, and tackled much more effectively. Despite the levels of public concern, in the UK we have seen an astonishing 37 per cent increase in animal experiments over the last decade.â€
Some ludicrous claims were also made that laboratory animals are transported â€˜in comfortâ€™, when scientific studies have repeatedly shown that transport can be incredibly stressful for animals, even when done according to industry guidelines.
Dr Jennings added: “All animal experiments are said to be â€˜absolutely necessaryâ€™ and done to the â€˜highest possible standardsâ€™ but we know that is not the case. There are well validated reports of animals suffering unnecessarily in experiments that are poorly designed and badly conducted and that in our view cause needless suffering and are a complete waste of animalsâ€™ lives.
“While the RSPCA does not believe in intimidation of transport companies, and we know a ‘ban’ on import for scientific procedures could just mean the research will still be done elsewhere, we welcome the debate about animal experimentation.
“Indeed, it is very timely – the UK government is at this moment drafting new legislation on animal experiments and the RSPCA is extremely concerned that they plan to lower standards in the UK to conform with those in the rest of Europe.
â€œDuring the consultation process on the new UK law, there has been resistance to maintaining higher UK standards of animal housing and care, on the grounds that this will make UK animals too expensive so researchers will buy cheaper animals from the continent. This would mean subjecting animals to the stress of transport just to save money, which would be morally wrong and was not mentioned by government or industry in the media debate.â€
The RSPCA believes that lowering UK standards of regulation would lead to an increase in suffering and will do nothing to drive what really needs to be achieved – replacement of animals with humane alternatives, without further delay. “