‘For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for animal welfare and protecting animals from suffering. I feel so fortunate to be able to dedicate my career to this.’

Dr Katy Taylor

Dr Katy Taylor

More than 192 million animals are used in harmful research and testing each year, despite, in many cases, the existence of humane alternatives.

Dr Katy Taylor, 45, who works as Director of Science at Cruelty Free International, has made it her mission to put an end to this suffering.

A lifelong animal lover, Katy knew that she wanted to work with animals and assumed she would become a vet. In fact, whilst studying Zoology at the University of Sheffield, she ran the Animal Rights Society and frequently took part in various animal rights campaigns and activities.

As time went on, Katy became more aware of the shocking number of unscientific and unnecessary animal tests which occur in the UK each year, including on cats and dogs. The more Katy learned the more she wanted to find out how she could help to reduce and ultimately, stop this.

15 years ago, after completing her PhD in Animal Welfare & Behaviour and post-Doctorate studies, Katy started working at Cruelty Free International - the leading organisation working to end animal testing worldwide. She loves her job and “has never looked back”.

Katy’s role as Director of Science is not only to manage a team of other trail-blazing scientists, but to also challenge the use of animal testing with regulators, academics, and government officials. Pre-pandemic, Katy would typically spend a couple of days per week in various European cities lobbying for a change to animal testing policies in favour of quicker, cheaper, more effective, and cruelty-free alternatives.

Although COVID-19 has changed aspects of her job, it’s still just as exciting. Just a few examples of how Katy spends her time includes virtual meetings, carrying out desk-based research, and assessing potential animal welfare breaches in laboratories based on undercover investigation footage.

However, despite ongoing efforts and innovations in the field, change can be frustratingly slow. “Some scientists can be set in their ways and are not always open to learning about alternative methods – I definitely have days where it’s a challenge to stay motivated.”

However, change is happening, albeit at a slower pace than Katy and Cruelty Free International would like! One of her favourite parts of the job is seeing the difference she and the team make. She estimates she and her team have directly helped spare over a quarter of a million animals from painful experiments as well as the closure of three primate testing facilities.

Katy explains:

“I love my job, but it does come with its challenges. Science is constantly innovating, yet there still appears to be a reluctance amongst others in the field to adapt, and that’s where Cruelty Free International comes in.

“When I started out, I knew that if I wanted to tackle the issue of animal testing with other scientists and government officials, I needed to be armed with scientific knowledge. Having a depth of understanding is vital for my job as it enables me to form a compelling, fact-led argument against testing on monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and other helpless animals.

“Due to lack of awareness, many people are surprised when they find out that the vast majority of animal tests are not required and do not contribute to medical findings. In fact, our recent analysis of 27 medical ‘breakthroughs’ in the UK revealed there was a high degree of exaggeration by animal researchers in their findings. Most do not result in effective treatments for human diseases, even years down the line.

“Sadly, this hasn’t stopped the UK being the second biggest tester of dogs in Europe; even testing weed killer on dogs. Beagles are the preferred breed because of their trusting nature and small size. We believe these tests are unnecessary, cruel, and not supported by the British public.

“If tests are unnecessary, it begs the question as to why we are turning a blind eye to the countless number of animals still being killed and harmed on a regular basis. My goal is for more people to become aware of this to spark a widespread change.

“Part of my job involves following undercover laboratory investigations and going to court to ask the regulators to enforce their own laws – both of which really reinvigorate my passion and motivation to continue. Although it does spur me on, watching footage from undercover investigations is incredibly distressing and it has not got any easier over the years.

“In the future I hope that there will be a generation of more open-minded, ethical scientists, like the team we have at Cruelty Free International, who can advocate for change to happen. I feel optimistic that we will continue to reduce animal testing, but we still have a long way to go, especially in the UK.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be in a career where I get to campaign for animals, however, some of the things I have to witness are horrifying – I often end up in tears! In a way I wish more people could see just how barbaric animal experiments are – it really shines a light on how unscientific they are.”

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