Animal research still plays a role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.
Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and I know Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved. I am opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches could be used.
I am proud that the UK has consistently led the way on animal welfare, recognising in law that animals can feel pain and suffering through the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, enshrines the recognition that animals are sentient in domestic law. I am encouraged that this Bill will create an Animal Sentience Committee with experts which will produce reports on how well policy decisions have paid all due regard to the welfare of animals.
It is important to remember that existing scientific research methods ensure that, by the time medicines reach clinical trial, risks are significantly reduced.