Thank you for contacting me about animal research and ethical innovation.
I share the Government's commitment to the development of alternatives to using animals in scientific procedures and I am glad the Government continues to actively support and fund the development and dissemination of the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) for the use of animals in scientific procedures.
This is achieved through UK Research and Innovation’s funding of the National Centre for the 3Rs, which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of non-animal technologies, and through research into the development of alternatives by Innovate UK, the Medical Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
I understand that with regard to animal testing for cosmetics the Government has recognised the public concern around the testing on animals of chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics. I welcome the fact that the Government has introduced measures that ensure no new licences will now be granted for animal testing of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products. Further, I am aware the Government is also undertaking a review at pace on the effective administration of the ban over the longer term. This will give due regard of the needs of the science industry, the need to ensure worker and environmental safety, and the need to protect animals from unnecessary harm.
More broadly, I am glad that the Government is actively committed to supporting and funding the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs). This is primarily through funding from the UK Research and Innovation for the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs) who have committed £31.6 million for research and innovation into replacements technologies in the past five years, and to ensure that the UK has a robust and regulatory system for licensing animal studies. The NC3Rs are on tract to meet their commitment to invest 75 per cent of their research and innovation budge on replacement technologies by the end of 2024.
Toxicity and safety testing provides important information into the biological effect of substances which enable precautions to be taken to protect humans, animals and the environment from adverse effects of products used in medicine, industry, agriculture and households. In the UK it is required by law that all new drugs are tested within two species. This is done to protect humans as the comparative data from both species allows researchers to be confident that toxic effects will be identified in the pre-clinical stages of testing. This approach ensures the safety of healthy volunteers who take part in clinical trials as well as patients who will take the medication.
I am aware of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) ongoing campaign to replace the real fur used in the bearskin King’s Guards ceremonial caps with faux fur.
Guardsmen take great pride in wearing the bearskin cap, which is an iconic image of Britain. I understand that individual soldiers do not possess their own hats and that they are cared for and shared within the Household Division. Despite their constant use, every effort is made to carefully prolong the longevity of each ceremonial cap. On account of this, they usually last for more than a decade, with some having been in use for as long as 60 years.
That said, I am aware that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) would like to find an alternative material to bearskin should one prove acceptable. Indeed, I am informed that where sustainable, affordable, and appropriate faux material exists, the MOD has used it.
I understand that tests conducted on potential faux fur products have shown that, while water penetration was reduced, it still did not meet the necessary standard, and performed poorly in the remaining basic requirements areas. In addition, the most recent test results, provided by PETA from an accredited testing house, have been analysed by the MOD. The analysis concluded that the fabric only met one of the five basic requirements. To date, and to the MOD’s knowledge, there is no faux fur alternative that meets the required standard to provide an effective replacement for the King’s Guards ceremonial caps.
However, I can assure you that the UK goes to great lengths to ensure that the pelts that make the King's Guards caps are procured in the most responsible way possible. I would like to assure you that bears are never hunted to order for the MOD. Bear pelts used for the King’s Guards’ ceremonial caps are sourced exclusively from Canada precisely because it is a regulated market and a declared party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.
Establishments, such as MBR Acres, that either breed dogs for use in science elsewhere or conduct regulated procedures on dogs are required to provide care and accommodation to those dogs in line with the published code of practice for that purpose. Adherence to that code of practice, and to all other standard conditions applied to any establishment licence, is assessed by the regulator as part of its compliance assurance programme.
Establishments breeding, supplying, or using dogs in science are contributing to critical activities to protect human health and advance scientific progress. They are operating legally within a regulatory framework that requires licensure and assessment of their compliance.
I will continue to monitor developments in concerning animal welfare closely.
Craig Whittaker MP