Celebrities Evanna Lynch, Lucy Watson, and Lesley Nicol have teamed up with OneKind, Cruelty Free International and Animal Free Research UK to call for an end to animal experimentation in the UK.
The stars of Harry Potter, Made in Chelsea, and Downton Abbey have recreated an iconic photo from 1919 protesting against animal experiments, to highlight how millions of animals are still subjected to the same cruel experimentation that they were 100 years ago. It comes as the Home Office today revealed that while there has been a 15% drop in animal experiments since last year, this is largely attributed to the two national lockdowns. The numbers are still staggering: close to 3 million animals suffered in Britain’s laboratories last year.
The historic photo was captured in 1919 when three women from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, today known as Cruelty Free International, protested in Parliament Square while the Dogs (Protection) Bill was being debated in Parliament.
Like Cruelty Free International and Animal Free Research UK, we also have our roots in the feminist led anti-vivisection movement, having been founded in 1911 by the Ivory Sisters under the name of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection (SSPV). SSPV undertook pioneering work in Scotland and as part of the larger UK-wide anti-vivisection movement. SSPV changed its name to Advocates for Animals in 1990, and later OneKind in 2008, to reflect the breadth of animal welfare issues the organisation had begun tackling.
Home office stats
While we welcome the decrease in the number of animal experiments conducted across Britain last year, 2.9 million animals being subjected to experimentation is still 2.9 million animals too many. Sadly, while the overall number of experiments may have reduced, there has been an increase of testing of cats, dogs, horses and rhesus macaques.
The animal testing statistics released by the Home Office for 2020 reveal that the number of experiments performed have risen on dogs (up by 3%), cats (up by 11%) and horses (up by 3%), showing no concerted effort to reduce the number of tests on these animals. The number of experiments on horses has increased by 29% in the last decade alone. There has also been an increase of 77% in the use of rhesus macaques.
The statistics reveal 115 experiments were conducted on dogs to satisfy plant protection product legislation, which is likely to include pesticides testing. There were 46 such tests in 2019, which means these experiments have increased by 150%.
The overall reduction in experiments in 2020 should act as a launchpad for further decreases – there must be no return to pre-lockdown numbers.
Animal experimentation is failing animals and humans
Too many animals continue to suffer in Britain’s laboratories every year – with over 90% of drugs that prove promising in animal trials failing in humans, either due to lack of effectiveness or safety concerns.
Discounting this year’s drop due to the pandemic, overall number of animal experiments has also fallen by only 1% annually over the past decade. If the UK continues on its current trajectory, animal experiments will remain for at least another 90 years. The UK Government must invest more in laboratory innovations – such as 3D organs on a chip – and remove unfair regulatory hurdles to significantly reduce the drug development failure rate and to stop animal suffering.
The #TargetZero campaign calls on the UK Government to recognise the urgent need to use animal-free science and publish a clear and ambitious action plan with timetables and milestones to drive the phase-out of animal experiments. You can sign the #TargetZero petition, calling on the UK Government to end its reliance on Victorian science and bring forward a pro-active plan to end animal experimentation, here.
The regulation of scientific procedures is devolved to the UK Government. However, we believe that the Scottish Government also has a role to play in encouraging a phase out of animal testing. Our 2020 manifesto for the Scottish parliamentary elections urged the Scottish Government to promote the rapid development and utilisation of alternatives to animal research and press the UK Government to take action to replace animal testing. The #TargetZero campaign, therefore, will also be seeking the support of MSPs.
Our celebrity supporters, Evanna Lynch, Lucy Watson and Lesley Nicol, provided statements in support of the #TargetZero campaign:
“I have been campaigning for animal rights for as long as I can remember, yet this issue remains one of the biggest issues in animal welfare. The UK carries out more animal experiments than most countries in Europe, but this doesn’t have to the be case. We can – and should – be leaders in paving the way for ethical, effective experiments. I hope that the comparisons drawn between the 1900s and present day demonstrate the need to rethink how we treat animals in science.” – Evanna Lynch
“Progress must be made. It’s shocking to think that so many animal experiments are unnecessary, yet they still occur and cause a great deal of distress and harm for helpless animals. Very few people know the extent of the problem, so I really hope that this campaign helps to draw attention to the issue. The more it’s talked about, the more likely things will change.” – Lucy Watson
“It’s horrifying to know how many animal experiments take place each year in the UK. To know that so many are unnecessary breaks my heart. In the 1900s people were fighting for animal experiments to stop and fast forward 100 years, here we are again… so why hasn’t a change been made? With modern science evolving, it’s beyond my comprehension that scientists and universities, haven’t made more of an effort to replace animal experiments.” – Lesley Nicol
It’s time the UK Government supported science, not suffering. Sign our petition to urge the UK Government to pro-actively phase out animal testing.