SIR - What do doctors think about the use of animals in medical research? Last month, we commissioned the first proper national survey for 13 years of family doctors' views on this issue.

In the poll conducted by GP Net, the vast majority of GPs - 96 per cent - agree that animal research has made an important contribution to many medical advances. In the poll, almost nine in 10 GPs (88 per cent) also agree that safety tests should be carried out on animals before human trials of new medicines are conducted.

It is perhaps no surprise that GPs recognise the crucial role of animal research. Every day, they prescribe medicines developed through animal research - from antibiotics and painkillers to medicines for asthma and high blood pressure.

No one believes that animals should be used in research unless it is necessary. This is the law in the UK, so non-animal methods are used whenever possible. When animals do need to be used, the standard of care and welfare is very high.

DR SIMON FESTING, Executive Director, RDS: Understanding Animal Research in Medicine