This is a difficult topic for me. I am an animal lover who has campaigned for a very wide range of improved welfare measures for animals since first being elected. Although I absolutely do not like animal testing, I understand the necessity of conducting some limited testing on animals.
The research conducted at Porton Down aids scientific and technological advances for the UK’s defence and security, which includes identifying a means of tackling chemical and biological attacks, like the Salisbury attack in 2018. Countermeasures to nerve agents such and Sarin and VX and treatments to exposure of anthrax have all been developed at Porton Down and are available for the use by the UK military and the public.
The procedures have strict guidelines that must be in line with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) which regulates the use of animals in scientific and experimental procedures which may result in pain or suffering to the animal. Additionally, the legislation requires DSTL to report how many animals are used in research every year, over the last year less than 0.5% of animal testing across the country was conducted at Porton Down.
DSTL adhere to the 3Rs principle Reduce, Replace and Refine when research programmes are being planned. They must consider if they can either replace the use of animals, reduce the number of animals used, or refine how the animals are treated. Licenses issued by the Home Office are only applied for if research cannot be carried out without the use of animals; the Home Office carry out announced and unannounced visits throughout the year to ensure protocol is being adhered to.
Whilst I find the reality of animal testing deeply uncomfortable and accept it will never sit well with me, I appreciate that some experiments require the use of animals in order to save human lives. I will continue to support alternative methods of testing, but whilst this is not available, I trust the government to ensure the correct methods and guidelines are followed.