A Government blueprint for reducing the number of animals used in scientific experiments has been dismissed as a “whitewash” and “betrayal” by activists.
The 41-page “3Rs” Delivery Plan outlines a range of strategies including more resource sharing, tightening up rules for laboratories, improving scrutiny of research funding applications, and supporting international initiatives.
A key move is the implementation of a “robust” system of reporting the severity of animal testing procedures from the start of this year. This will be based on a pilot study, conducted last year, which involved categorising experiments as “sub-threshold, mild, moderate or severe”.
Other proposals include updating requirements from the research councils for all animal testing funding applications, competitions to find new solutions for reducing reliance on animal research, helping scientists understand the importance of good study design, and a disease modelling workshop.
Through the Technology Strategy Board, a body set up to stimulate innovation, up to £4m is also being made available to accelerate the development of new non-animal technologies.
At the heart of the plan is the NC3Rs, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, which supports research and schemes aimed at finding alternatives to animal testing.
But the report was dismissed by animal welfare groups, which accused the Government of failing to honour a pledge it made four years ago to work towards curbing animal tests. They pointed out that the number of Home Office-licensed animal experiments went up by eight per cent in 2012.
Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “This is a whitewash and shows that the Government has in reality given up on what it promised to do.”