Great Britain Announces Center to Explore Alternatives to Animals in Medical Research

In May, Lord Sainsbury announced that the British government would support the creation of a new national center designed to cut the number of animals used in medical research by pushing for ways to further implement the widely accepted view of replacing, refining and reducing such tests. Not surprisingly, the same animal rights groups complaining about the increase in animals used for medical research quickly attacked the plan as “a joke” and “a sham.”

The government’s plans are the result of a House of Lords report that urged the creation of just such a center for exploring non-animal research methods. An unnamed National Anti-Vivisection Society spokesperson complained to the Daily Telegraph that,

Now the government has hijacked the proposal, but made it a center which will explore both animal and non-animal research.

But Lord Smith of Clifton, who chaired the committee that produced the report, praised the government’s plans to create the new national center,

The government has accepted my committee’s recommendations to set up a center. i think the higher profile that the government is giving this question should reassure people that animals aren’t used willy nilly.

Which, of course, will never satisfy the animal rights activists who are against animal testing regardless of whether a given test is necessary or effective. As Geoffrey Thomas of the Dr. Hadwen Trust told The BBC,

I think it is very important that the emphasis is on replacement — and the three R’s is simply diverting attention and resources from that specific topic.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society’s Jan Creamer went even further, telling the Press Association that the center was “a joke.”

What the Government has announced today is a joke. This center is going to be governed by people who are committed to animal research. The Government had an opportunity to invest in cutting edge technologies and research. Instead they have gone for the same old people and the same old tired ideas.

Animal Aid’s Andrew Tyler dismissed the three R’s approach, telling the Press Association,

The only R that has any merit is replacement — given that experimenting on other species produces results that cannot be reliably applied to people.

Lord Sainsbury told the Press Association that while replacement is the ultimate goal, for the forseeable future animal research will be essential in animal research and both reduction and refinement are thus important goals. Sainsbury said only animal groups who accept the three R’s approach will be welcome on the new Center’s board,

It is not about having a debate between people from widely different positions. The extreme actions taken by some animal rights groups is a quite separate issue and we have made it clear as a Government that we do not tolerate that kind of behavior.


Minister backs center to cut tests on animals. David Derbyshire, Daily Telegraph (London), May 22, 2004.

Animal rights groups attack new research centre. Neville Dean, Press Association News, May 21, 2004.

Shake up of animal tests expected. The BBC, May 20, 2004.