A new government centre for research on alternatives to animal research is expected to anger anti-vivisection groups by underlining the need for some animal experiments to continue.
The national centre for the "3Rs" - the reduction, refinement and replacement of animal experiments - is a response to recommendations made by the House of Lords. It will not be unveiled by the Office of Science and Technology for some weeks.
But sources close to the project said the government was keen to stress that animal research was important and that improving the welfare of animals used in experiments would be just as important as searching for alternatives.
This has caused anger among anti-vivisection groups. Gill Langley, the scientific adviser to the Dr Hadwen Trust, which campaigns against animal experiments, said: "The government is about to miss a fabulous opportunity to make Britain a world leader in the burgeoning field of non-animal research."
But Philip Connolly, the director of the Coalition for Medical Progress, an umbrella group of research funders that promotes public dialogue about animal research, said public concern to reduce animal suffering spoke of a wish to see experiments refined.
Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: "At present, real gains in animal welfare are more likely to come through improvement of animal husbandry, and experimental design and practice, than through replacement."
The centre may attract up to£1 million in government funding.
Animal tests can't be avoided