As an owner of two dogs and an animal lover myself, please be assured that I want to minimise animal testing. Therefore, I am proud that the UK has consistently led the way on animal welfare, and it is right that we cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar. I am pleased that the Government's first-of-its-kind Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed to maintaining high standards of protection where procedures are undertaken on live animals for scientific or educational purposes.
However, I know that the use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work in health and disease, and in the development of new medicines, treatments and technologies. Further, I am assured that animals, including dogs, are only used in research when there are no suitable alternatives, and any tests are carried out under controls that keep suffering to a minimum. This is known as the last-resort principle, which has been retained and strengthened in the new Environment Act. I am opposed to animal tests where alternative approaches could be used.
I also welcomed the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill to Parliament. This Bill will not only enshrine recognition of animal sentience in domestic law but will also establish an expert-led Animal Sentience Committee, which will produce reports on the impact of policy decisions on animal welfare. Further, I am pleased that the new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act has enabled tougher prison sentences for the most serious perpetrators of animal cruelty, from the previous maximum of six months to up to five years. The maximum five-year sentence is one of the toughest punishments in Europe, and only strengthens the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.
I hope this offers you some reassurance that the Government is deeply committed to maintaining the very highest standards of animal welfare in research.