Plans To Close GM Mouse Lab Due To Changing Scientific Landscape
The National Anti-Vivisection Society has welcomed news that the Medical Research Council plans to close Harwell Institute’s Mouse Genetics Unit in Oxford due to “the changing scientific landscape”. It follows the recently announced closure of Wellcome Sanger Institute’s animal research facility near Cambridge, the decision stated by its Director as “the best way to continue to deliver the science and make the discoveries that impact on human health”.
Despite claiming on their website to be “proactively committed to implementing” the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement of animal use) Harwell Director Professor Steve Brown only managed to name one correctly during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.
NAVS President Jan Creamer said: “Growing scientific evidence shows that advanced human-relevant methods are more reliable than using animals. We hope therefore that these plans signal a concerted shift by research institutions to move away from misleading animal tests and towards better modern science.”
More than two-thirds (2.6 million) of the 3.7 million animal tests conducted in British laboratories, such as Harwell which has been the subject of a previous NAVS investigation, are for the creation and maintenance of animals with genetic modifications. GM animals are created with a particular trait, in order to “model” human conditions, and are intended to be abnormal in some way. Given a deliberate genetic defect, prolonged animal suffering can arise from repeated surgeries, egg collection, implantation, repeated blood and tissue testing, and the intended and unintended mutations suffered. Only 3-5% of offspring have the desired genetic defect, resulting in huge numbers of animals being killed and discarded.
The public is increasingly opposed to animal experiments and supportive of alternative methods. The key findings of an Ipsos MORI report on public attitudes to animal research released last month revealed:
- An increasing interest in alternatives to the use of animals in research, from 55 per cent to 60 per cent.
- A declining belief that the use of animals for medical research is important to human health, from 46 per cent to 41 per cent.
- 27 per cent think no animal should be used in medical research to benefit people, up from 23 per cent.
- 41 per cent associate animal research organisations with secrecy.
With little known about animal tests taking place, the NAVS has been calling for removal of “secrecy clause” Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, and specifically for the licence applications submitted by animal researchers to be made public before their experiments take place. Five years after consulting the public on Section 24, the NAVS is still waiting for the UK Government to release its findings.
The use of animals in research is fundamentally flawed because:
- Each species responds differently to substances, making animal tests an unreliable way to predict effects in humans;
- Test results can differ due to an animal’s age, sex, diet, and even their bedding material;
- Human diseases in lab animals are not naturally occurring - artificially created, they are different from the human condition they are attempting to mimic.
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