'No target' in UK animal tests plan
The UK government has launched its delivery plan to replace, refine and reduce the use of animals in research - known as "the 3Rs". It pledges to encourage scientists to use alternatives wherever possible. But there is no commitment in the strategy released on Friday to reduce the total number of animal experiments, which has been on the rise.
This is despite a post-election pledge by the Coalition to cut the use of animals in scientific research. Instead, the government will promote new, more ethical research techniques which can help boost UK science.
"This isn't about a numerical target," said David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.
"The commitment is to 'work to reduce use of animals'. Ultimately the final figure will depend on patterns of scientific advance. Britain is a world leader in science but also in concern for the welfare of animals. What we are doing is bringing these two great British traditions together. Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker, who is leading the Home Office work, said it would be "artificial" to focus on the absolute numbers of animal experiments.
"Had work not been done via the 3Rs we'd already have a higher number," he said.