National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

UK must invest in non-animal technologies for the benefit of science.

Posted: 20 December 2017. Updated: 2 August 2018


UPDATE: Following publication of their life sciences industrial strategy report, the NAVS criticised the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee for failing to acknowledge evidence about animal research and the benefits of non-animal methods. With animal models being poor scientific models, we called on the Committee to urgently address the omission of advanced research methods that are more reliable, cheaper and biological relevant to humans. In response the Committee - whose Chair is patron of pro-animal research charity, the Animals in Science Education Trust, which has beagle breeders B&K Universal among its corporate sponsors - claims that such evidence did not fall within the remit of their inquiry. Read our joint letter with other animal protection and alternative funding organisations, and the Committee’s response.

The NAVS provided the House of Lords and one of the UK’s largest research councils, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with evidence of the harms caused by animal research as well as the economic and scientific benefits of greater investment and support for animal-free science.

Nearly 4 million animals are used in research in the UK each year, including species such as mice, rats, dogs and primates, with over a third (34%) of experiments classified as moderate or severe. ‘Severe’ suffering can include internal bleeding, heart failure, and nerve damage. ‘Moderate’ suffering can include implanting a device into monkeys’ skulls, with common adverse effects including wound infections.

As well as the harms caused to animals in research, the societal harms in terms of individual health and the scientific economy, are also of concern. Calls for evidence from the House of Lords and BBSRC focussed on strategies for advancing innovative technology and science, so we urged a rethink of investing wasteful and unreliable animal research, instead focussing on advanced non-animal techniques.

The fundamental flaw of animal-based research is referred to as ‘species differences’. Each species responds differently to substances, therefore animal tests are unreliable as a way to predict effects in humans. More and more scientific peer reviews and opinions have been published in the last decade to support the view that data from animals is not a reliable source of information for predicting outcomes, or studying natural disease in humans; they can even be harmful to humans. There is evidence that animal research has poor predictivity in drug trials , ; poor translation to successful human trials ; has delayed progress to advancing human treatments , ; cause rejection of potential treatments ; play a part in clinical trial disasters , ; and contribute to adverse drug reactions , , and withdrawn medicines .

Non-animal technologies (NATs) can be faster, more reliable and cheaper than using animals. They are better for human health, business and the economy and have been recognised as having the potential to drive economic growth . They attract business investment, fuelling the shift away from a reliance on animal research in the scientific sector.

On an international level, many regulatory agencies, governments and funding bodies are encouraging a shift away from animal methods. For example the Dutch government was the first to announce it would phase out the use of animals in safety testing by 2025, followed by the Brussels Government who aim to reduce it by 30% by this time. Both plan to achieve this by focusing on human relevant models.

Worldwide NATs have progressed exponentially, with advancements being made in the fields of in vitro and computer science, as well as using weight of evidence and read-across methods to promote animal-free research. Outside of the UK, there has been huge international progress made toward animal-free science. For example:

  • The US has made significant advancements within the field of NATs, with the Wyss Institute now a global leader in Organ-on-a-Chip technology which is fast becoming a technology with the potential to replace animals within cell culture science across the world.

  • The US is also leading the way in animal-free medical training and trauma training with the adoption of simulation technologies.

  • Singapore has excelled in the advancement of stem cell technology for toxicology testing;

  • The US, Netherlands and Luxembourg have developed mini organ technology;

  • France is bioprinting 3D models of human organs and tissues.

At the current time there is a risk of the UK falling behind on global developments in NATs and missing opportunities for growth of an innovative industry that can benefit academia, industry, public health and the economy. Of course this shift in science also has the potential to relieve the suffering of the millions of animals currently used in experiments globally, but investment and efforts must be made.

You can read our full submission to the House of Lords inquiry on industrial Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy here.

Help the NAVS campaign for unreliable animal tests to be replaced with modern non-animal methods!

  • Urge your MP to support and press for proposals for the adoption of advanced alternatives.

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