The RSPCA is collaborating with six other not-for-profit organisations on a pioneering campaign urging the public to donate their waste tissue from surgical operations to help replace animal experiments.
The campaign, Focus on Alternatives, includes the Humane Research Trust and the Dr Hadwen Trust.
Members argue that research on human tissue is preferable because it avoids cruelty to animals and can be more reliable.
The use of animals in medical research hit the news again recently after animal rights protestors succeeded in closing down a guinea pig farm in Staffordshire.
Carol Newman, scientific officer at medical research charity the Dr Hadwen Trust, explained: "At present, if you have an operation, whether the removal of a tumour or even cosmetic surgery, there are tissues that get thrown away.
"Most people aren't asked if they want to donate them or aren't even aware that their tissues can be used for medical research."
The RSPCA is distributing a leaflet in hospitals, advising patients they can ask for their waste tissue to be used for research.
It also lists the UK's 10 tissue banks, where people can register if they want to donate their tissue after their death.
When a person dies, their next of kin can give permission for their organs to be used in research, but there is no nationally co-ordinated system.
Newman added: "We would like to see a national system, possibly a link-up with NHS donor cards."
- See Peter Cardy, page 24.