26/03/2015 07:31 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 06:59 BST

Will Voting Be Bad for Your Health?

Like most people, when I go to vote next may, the first thing I'll have in mind will probably not be the cure for dementia that could help my mother in 20 years' time, or the cure for autism that might help my child in years to come, or even the treatment for cancer that could save my life in 50 years' time. Unfortunately, those potential future treatments are under threat in the upcoming elections.

As the General Election approaches, many prospective parliamentary candidates - 164 so far, including 21 MPs (including Ed Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change is one such signatory) have decided to back six pledges that would, according to scientists, ban 88.6% of all animal research - about 8 out of every 9 animal studies benefiting humans and animals.

One of the pledges demands the "end of non-medical experiments", by which it means the 87% of animal tests which are not marked as "applied studies - human medicine or dentistry" in the Home Office's annual statistics. That would include basic research which is aimed at understanding our bodies and the diseases which affect us, and which most of the recent medical breakthroughs of these last decades are based on. It would also be the end of all veterinary and environmental research, and with that a TB vaccine and a possible alternative to badger culling, or the end of Equine Herpes virus - sounds as bad as it is.

Let's be clear, we are not talking about cosmetic testing on animals which has been banned in the UK since 1998. Nor are we discussing household products which have not been tested on animal in Britain since 2011, and are the subject of a ban starting in October this year. We are talking about the fundamental research which has underpinned a century of discoveries.


Mice were crucial the development of medical penicillin.

Image: Understanding Animal Research image library

No one wishes for animal research, but the fact remains - animal research is fundamental for medical, veterinary and environmental research. 91 out of the 105 Nobel Prizes of Medicine have implicated animal research, and the most recent advances in all fields of medical research have been supported by research based on animals. From penicillin (mice) and blood transfusions (dogs and sheep), to the meningitis vaccine (guinea pigs) and modern breast cancer treatments (mice), all were made possible thanks to animal experimentation.

Philip Wright, CEO of The Physiological Society affirms the importance basic animal research in a quote to Buzzfeed:

"If we were to stop fundamental research using animals, we would effectively halt our ability to develop new treatments for the next ebola outbreak, cancer, dementia and vaccines for animals etc. Animal research remains essential to our ability to understand the biological mechanisms that control how the body works."

So when you go vote be more careful than the green party's leader, Natalie Bennett, and its only MP, Caroline Lucas, who both signed the pledges thinking it was referring to tests on 'household products'. Be more careful than Badger TB vaccine- supporting MP, Andrew George, who just pledged to get rid of veterinary research. Think again before sending all potential lifesaving discoveries, researchers and the economy linked to it flying to other countries - many of which have lower standards of animal welfare.

So will you be voting for your health this year?