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Britain can lead the world to a brighter future for humans and animals

Carla Owen, CEO

Carla Owen, CEO | Animal Free Research UK

4 min read Partner content

A brighter future where diseases are cured faster without animal suffering is within reach – Britain must lead the rest of the world to grasp it

Every minute of every day, six animals – many we keep as pets including mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, primates and horses – are used in the UK for research. 

That’s over three million annually and many are subjected to painful experiments for little if any human benefit.   

90% of new drugs tested on animals fail in human clinical trials because significant differences in our genetic makeup mean that data from animal testing does not necessarily translate to people.   

This grim statistic is upsetting for all those who care about animal welfare – more so because alternative research methods are available.  

Innovations pioneered in UK labs – such as 3D organ-on-a-chip and advanced computer modelling -  can significantly reduce the drug development failure rate by compiling faster and cheaper, more accurate human relevant medical research data on potential treatments and cures for deadly diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s.   

As our newly published Modernising Medical Research Report highlights, forward-thinking researchers – some funded by Animal Free Research UK – are making inspirational progress in the development of high-tech alternatives.  

But outdated regulations and entrenched mindsets allow the appalling 90 percent animal research failure rate to continue year after year.  

That’s why Animal Free Research has declared today – May 27 – World Animal Free Research Day. What is to be an annual event will raise awareness and push for change as seen in our A Brighter Future video.   

We’ve made it an international day because medical research regulations are universal – though it is Britain that can lead the world to a brighter future for humans and animals. 

Indeed, in the recent Queen’s Speech, the Government re-stated its commitment to promote animal welfare and underscored its aspiration for the UK to become a global leader in the life sciences. 

Its Action Plan for Animal Welfare seeks to improve protection for pets, farmed animals and wild animals. But those animals used in experiments were covered by just one sentence: “[Government will] Continue to commit to maintaining high standards of protection where procedures are undertaken on live animals for scientific or educational purposes.”   

This glib commitment to high standards of protection rings hollow – more so after the latest Home Office report on lab experiments describes harrowing incidents such as animals dying due to inadequate food and water provision; if animals are not even afforded the staples to keep them alive, one can only with horror imagine what else they are subjected to.  

Worryingly, the Government is short of answers. In reply to a recent Parliamentary Question about how the commitments made in the Queen’s Speech would translate into improved protection for animals in labs, Cabinet provided just three sentences referencing existing guidance - with zero sign of ambition for change. 

This does not bode well for the UK to become a global science super power. In our report, we examined the actual concrete steps – in some cases laws – being taken in other countries to accelerate the transition to animal free research. And the evidence shows they – the US, the Netherlands et al – are stealing a march on Britain. 

We at Animal Free Research UK would like nothing more than the UK to be inspiring the world by practising ethical sciences that benefit human and animal kind. 

So on this first World Animal Free Research Day, we call on the animal loving Prime Minister and his cabinet to mirror the bold actions of other national leaders and make the acceleration towards animal free research a matter of national importance.   

One move Boris Johnson could make to catch up with our international peers is to create a new department or ministerial position tasked exclusively with accelerating the replacement of animals. This role would undertake activities such as producing detailed plans, facilitating collaboration and leading the reform of international guidelines on the testing of medicines. 

Alongside the ethical argument there is the economic case for modernising medical research. Supporting the development and take-up of animal free methods has huge potential for the British economy. For example, the global 3D cell culture market was estimated to be worth £7.3 billion in 2020, rising to £10.4 billion by 2025.   

Our Prime Minister should use today to show how serious he really is about leading the world in science and animal welfare. He should take a bold and future-focused approach to benefit people and animals, as this will firmly establish the UK as a world leader in scientific research and animal welfare.

Because, like us all, he needs to do his bit to create a brighter future for humans and animals.  


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