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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May 2004, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Head-to-head: Animal experiments
Animal rights demonstrators
Animal rights campaigners are not satisfied with government plans
Plans for a radical shake-up of the regulations governing experiments on laboratory animals are going to be announced in the next few days.

The proposals include a new National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, which will work to raise standards of animal welfare in laboratories.

The chairman of a House of Lords select committee on animals in scientific procedures and a member of a medical research charity put their cases.


The government has accepted my committee's recommendations to set up a national centre which will have spokes out to centres of excellence and science throughout the country and will look at alternatives to animal experimentation.

The higher profile that the government will now give to this vexed question should go some way to reassuring people that animals aren't used willy-nilly.

There are really very strict guidelines on this but this new centre will enhance that particular aspect of scientific experimentation.

You'll never bring together the two extreme sides on this very difficult topic but this is a move forward.

This is not a final solution. What I imagine the government is going to do is to see how this centre works.

It is going to appoint a very eminent chairman, I understand, who is a medical scientist and well respected and I'm sure there will be lay participation controlling this centre.

It's a question of winning minds and promoting best practice, and showing that you are really serious about it, which I think this centre does show.

We won't solve the problem today but I think we have taken a positive step forward.


This new centre is no more than a fig leaf to cover the government's shame.

Why have we had to wait 18 months, since Lord Smith's report, for this issue to be fudged in this way?

We suspect that by being linked through the Medical Research Council it is going to lack independence.

The Dr Hadwen Trust, following the publication of Lord Smith's report, proposed a dedicated centre for replacement of animals that would be independent and would actually have the confidence of the scientific community and the government.

There are no circumstances when animals should be used in experiments. It is very important the emphasis is on replacement only.

The problem is that the whole ethos of the Three Rs [the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in experiments] concept which was enshrined in the 1986 Scientific Procedures Act has delayed progress in finding replacements and left it once again to the charity sector like the Dr Hadwen Trust.

Lord Smith once again misses the point that by accepting animal experiments as essential we are diverting attention from replacement only research.

Again it's left to the animal protection charities to provide this specific research topic.

The BBC's Christine McGourty
"The new initiative aims to reduce the number of animals used"

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