Faster track for animal studies

March 30, 2001

Scientists who carry out research on animals have been boosted by measures that will cut delays in gaining permission to pursue their work.

The Home Office, which regulates animal research, is increasing the number of inspectors who deal with licence applications from 21 to 33 over three years.

The estimated £1.4 million cost of the extra inspectors will be reflected in the licence fees paid by those doing the research.

The Research Defence Society, which has received many complaints about delays, welcomed the move, which will also help ensure better provision for protecting the animals involved.

Barbara Davies, assistant director of the RDS, said: "It makes sense to increase their efficiency and reassure the public that animal research is well regulated."

Mike O'Brien, Home Office minister, said the larger inspectorate would allow the government to pursue its strategy of "replacement, reduction and refinement".

"This boost will mean animal experiments will be able to be more closely monitored and consideration of applications for licences will be more efficient without compromising the safeguards built into the system to protect animal welfare," he said.

Meanwhile, an inquiry into animal research is to be carried out by an ad hoc House of Lords committee set up last week.

The committee, chaired by Lord Smith of Clifton, will look at the effectiveness and justification for animal procedures in medicine, education, defence and product testing, as well as possible alternatives.

The House of Lords is next week due to debate the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which includes clauses that will offer more protection to individuals involved in such research.

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