What Does the New Government Have in Store for Animals?

Posted by on May 27, 2010 | Permalink

Those of you who have read the entire policy document produced last week by our new government will have noticed a few animal welfare measures. I’m sure these proposals won’t be all we’ll see on this from the coalition, but they do give us something to think about.

Animal Testing

The first thing to catch my eye was the very welcome news that the government will end the testing of household products on animals. This is something PETA raised in a meeting with the Conservative animal welfare spokesperson, Andrew Rosindell MP, last year, and I’m pleased to see that his assurances at the time are being translated into action now.

Not long after taking power in 1997, New Labour banned cosmetics testing on animals, but the persistence of testing for washing-up liquid and floor polish since then has been an outrage. According to official figures, these tests aren’t used all that much – in 2008, 132 animals were used in the tests; in 2007, just one; and in 2006, no animals were used. However, the fact that our supposedly strict laws on animal testing didn’t prevent the use of animals for this trivial purpose is pretty powerful evidence of just how inadequate those laws are. We certainly welcome this move, but the system needs a far more radical overhaul.

Interestingly, the document also says that the government will “work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research”. Those numbers have been rising alarmingly over the last decade, and this trend needs to be reversed immediately. However, without details, this statement means little. The government authorises every single experiment, so it has the power to control and reduce numbers right now: the statement that the government will “work to reduce” numbers implies a different approach (perhaps more support for alternatives) and is far from a promise of results. We’re pleased to see the government using this language, but we’ll be waiting to see what it actually plans to do.

Other Plans

There are two other things to consider. First, there is no mention of the ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses – a measure that the last government had planned. That doesn’t mean that a ban won’t be enacted, of course, and we’ll be in contact with the government and keep you informed. The other thing is a promise for a vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, which bans hunting with dogs. The good news is that the League Against Cruel Sports doesn’t currently believe that a majority of MPs will be in favour of ending the ban, but things could change, and we’ll certainly be following developments closely. PETA is reviewing all our action alerts directed at the government, so please keep a close eye on the action section of our website.

Finally, please remember that the animal testing ban isn’t in place yet. Animal-tested cosmetics are still on sale in the UK, and even after animal testing for household products is banned, products tested on animals elsewhere will still be available here. For information on supporting cruelty-free companies, check out our website.