I understand your concerns regarding the use of animals in scientific testing. I believe that the use of animals should be avoided wherever possible, and in the limited cases when animals are used, this should be done in accordance with strict guidelines to ensure any suffering is minimised.
As I am sure you are aware, the work done by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down helps provide the latest scientific and technological advantages for UK Armed Forces and wider security organisations. It remains the case that finding solutions to the technological problems faced by our service personnel unfortunately cannot all currently be addressed without the use of animals in research. I know and understand why this is upsetting for many people, but please be assured that I will continue to press the Government to find alternative methods of conducting tests wherever possible.
I am, however, reassured by the fact that strict procedures are in place to ensure the suffering of animals is kept to a strict minimum. When research programmes are being planned, Dstl follows the ‘3Rs’ principle to seek experimental procedures which either replace the use of animals, reduce the number of animals used, or refine how the animals are treated during the process. I therefore welcome the fact that the number of animals involved in scientific procedures at Porton Down between 2011 and 2019 fell from 9,722 to 1,490.
As necessary as animal testing is for scientific research, I am relieved and heartened that Dstl is able to continue its important work helping to protect the lives of our Armed Force, while also making significant efforts to keep its animal testing to the absolute minimum.