End secret suffering in UK labs
Posted: 27 March 2013. Updated: 27 August 2015
We have our first opportunity in more than 25 years and, quite possibly the last in another generation, to sweep away the secrecy surrounding animal experiments in UK laboratories.
The Government has is undertaking a review of the secrecy clause, Section 24, of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), the law governing the use of animals in experiments, on which we are waiting the findings of a public consultation to be announced. If Section 24 is abolished and not replaced, this gives us the opportunity to request access to project licence applications – the documents animal researchers have to submit to the Home Office for assessment of whether the licence is granted – and the possibility to oppose experiments before they occur.
The NAVS wants access to the project licence applications before they are granted to ensure adherence to the Government’s 3‘Rs policy of replacement, reduction and refinement in animal experiments. Most importantly, this access would provide us with the necessary information to recommend alternatives, identify duplications or other comparable research, thus enabling us to challenge such research, before it starts.
We would be able to request that licences are not granted for experiments where research is duplicated, where alternatives exist, or which are not applicable to their target, like humans, or even harmful.
As if the hidden suffering of millions of animals every year were not justification enough to lift the secrecy clause, Section 24 also contradicts the UK’s right to freedom of information enshrined in law. In addition, it is at odds with the commitments to transparency and public accountability within the EU Directive 2010/63 on animals in research, which has been recently been incorporated into UK law.
However, we are under no illusion about the battle we face: We know that the vivisection industry will seek to retain or even strengthen Section 24, by citing concerns that personal identification and commercial interests will be jeopardised, concerns that are already protected under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The FOIA already works for government, courts, the police, local government, the NHS and other bodies. Repeal of Section 24 would not compromise health or safety, protection of confidential information or intellectual property, because the FOIA already provides for the protection of personal information and confidential information. Furthermore, in order to scrutinise the scientific robustness of proposals to use animals in research, only technical details are required and personal information is unnecessary.
There is now broad support for repeal of Section 24– it has been noted that both the House of Lords Select Committee and the Animal Procedures Committee have supported such a move. Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach has also stated in a Ministerial Statement in July 2013: “The requirements of Section 24 are now out of step with our policy on openness and transparency and with the approach taken in other legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The solution we develop must improve the overall transparency surrounding research using animals, to create an environment which fosters informed debate leading to greater public trust, and also must protect personal identities and intellectual property".
This will probably be the ONLY opportunity in many years to change the rules and potentially end the suffering of millions of animals in UK laboratories.
The NAVS campaign to shine a light on animal tests
Supporters of repeal of Section 24
For a list of organisations and individuals, celebrities and MPs supporting the NAVS call to repeal Section 24, see here
Sir Paul McCartney and Ricky Gervais join NAVS campaign to end lab secrecy
The NAVS is delighted to welcome the support of Sir Paul McCartney and Ricky Gervais for our campaign to end secrecy in animal experiments in the UK. Read more...
Please participate in Government consultation on Section 24
The UK Government has finally launched its public consultation on the review of Section 24 and we now have an opportunity to speak up for the animals! Take part today
Chris Packham backs NAVS campaign as Government consultation launched
After months of expectation, the Government has finally launched its public consultation on repeal of Section 24. We now have an opportunity to speak up for the animals – and we are delighted that nature TV presenter Chris Packham is backing our campaign. Read more...
Failings at Imperial College show why we must repeal Section 24
A report identifying serious failings at Imperial College London illustrates why we must win our campaign to repeal Section 24 and end the secrecy that surrounds animal tests in the UK. Read more...
Week Of Action Against Secret Suffering in UK labs
The NAVS urges supporters to participate in two key actions which could influence the secret use of millions of animals in UK laboratories each year during the Week Of Action Against Secret Suffering in UK labs on November 27th – December 3rd. Read more/Take action
NAVS Calls For True ‘Openness’ On Animal Experiments
The NAVS calls for true openness about what happens in animal experiments following the release of a draft “Concordat on openness in animal research” by pro-animal research lobby group Understanding Animal Research (UAR). Read more...
Celebrities support call to stop the secrecy on World Day for Laboratory Animals
on World Day for Laboratory Animals on April 24th, 2013, actors Annette Crosbie and Brian Blessed joined the NAVS, and MPs Adrian Sanders, Caroline Lucas, Jim Dowd, Kerry McCarthy and Tessa Munt in calling on the Prime Minister to remove the secrecy clause which prevents transparency on animal research. A giant postcard was signed by celebrities and handed in to 10 Downing Street on the day. Read more...
Judicial Review, NAVS vs Home Office, blanket confidentiality
For over a century vivisection has thrived on secrecy and misinformation, with no public accountability. Read our campaign overview of how the NAVS successfully challenged Home Office policy with a Judicial Review in the High Court.Find out more…
MP debate presses Government on animal experimentation issues
February 2013: In a Westminster Hall debate on February 12th, Henry Smith MP drew attention to concerns about the use of animals in experiments in the UK. Concerning repeal of Section 24, Minister Mark Harper stated that “We are doing work now, over the next six months, and aim to report our conclusions to Parliament before the House rises for the summer”.Read more…
Promises to increase openness have a hollow ring
January 2013: Recent statements from the animal research community about developing more open policies have a hollow ring, given their decision to reject CCTV monitoring of experiments and allow the retention of Section 24.Read more….
New legislation on animal experimentation
May 2012: The UK is currently undergoing the first major revision of animal experimentation rules in over 25 years as the government brings the new EU Directive on animal testing into UK law. As the revision process enters into its final phase, this is the last opportunity to influence the new legislation.Read more…
Section 24 and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
March 2012: Section 24 places a blanket ban on the release of any information from animal experimentation laboratories and has prevented open public debate and wider scientific scrutiny of the use of animals in research. Public accountability and access to information is a fundamental tenet of the European Directive on the use of animals for scientific purposes and therefore the transposition of the Directive into UK law should have a profound effect on public access to information, accountability and wider scientific scrutiny of animal research.Read more (parliamentary briefing)
Report highlights need for transparency in research
2009: In our Save the Primates report we outline how – despite both the House of Lords Select Committee and the government’s own advisory body agreeing that there needed to be more openness and accountability concerning the use of animals in research – the UK government has retained Section 24 of ASPA and made an exemption from the full provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.Read the report
(see page 12 to read about transparency)
Partial victory for freedom of information
July 2004: Following a long-term campaign by the NAVS, the Government announced that animal experiments will be covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, allowing information which might endanger a person’s health or safety to be withheld. This is in addition to the “secrecy clause” Section 24 which allows animal experimenters to retain a blanket ban on disclosure of information. The Government ignored the recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee to revoke Section 24.Read more…View the statement
by Caroline Flint MP on the review of Section 24
Government concedes call for freedom of information on animal experiments
January 2003: The NAVS has welcomed the announcement by Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth that the government agrees that, in light of the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the confidentiality clause in the legislation governing animal experimentation is redundant. We are however disappointed that the announcement is to be followed with yet a further period of consultation.Read more…
Findings of the House of Lords Select Committee
July 2002: Although disappointed that the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures accepted the need for animal experiments without criticism, the NAVS is pleased that the Committee supported our call for freedom of information on animal experiments, in addition to our suggestion for a UK Centre for the Development of Alternatives, to draw together expertise and funding to push forward advances in non-animal research.Read more…
Inquiry into UK animal experiments
2002: The NAVS and the Lord Dowding Fund gave oral evidence to the Select Committee in March, following which we provided a Supplementary Memorandum, as requested, in which we summarised six steps that would enable vivisection to start being dismantled under the existing legislation. These included: a National Centre to Replace the Use of Animals in Experiments, repeal of Section 24 and for the Animal Procedures Committee to be overhauled to give it real power to regulate all animal experiments. In May 2002, the Committee invited the NAVS to participate in a conference debating issues raised during the inquiry, including freedom of information, toxicity testing, and development and implementation of non-animal methods.
2001: A Select Committee was appointed by the House of Lords in March to conduct an inquiry into animal experiments in the UK and following a call for submissions, the NAVS responded with a dossier of evidence supporting our core argument that vivisection is not only cruel but bad science. During the summer, the Select Committee began hearing evidence from organisations and individuals, including a minister, civil servants from the Home Office, drug companies, charities that fund vivisection, pro-vivisection lobbying bodies through to a handful of anti-vivisectionists. NAVS representatives attended many of the hearings.
Animal Procedures Committee report on openness
2001: It is likely that the Animal Procedures Committee report on ‘openness’ published in August will be influential in the final deliberations on freedom of information and vivisection. The report, for which the NAVS and our supporters participated in a ‘Consultation paper on openness and animal procedures’, included recommendations for the repeal or relaxation of Section 24 and for project licence application forms to summarise the procedures to be undertaken, including the species of animals to be used.Read more…Read our response
to the Committee on cost/benefit assessment , a process central to the granting of project licences under ASPA.
Home Office loses High Court action on animal experiments secrecy
June 1999: The Home Office agreed to pay all NAVS legal costs to avoid further High Court action over the blanket confidentiality policy applied to project licence applications for animal experiments. The NAVS had threatened legal proceedings after a satisfactory response was not received to our statement that Section 24 of ASPA did not authorise the Home Secretary to assert that everything on a project licence application was confidential and, when this failed, we proceeded to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the Home Secretary’s policy. The judge granted our application, following which the Home Office agreed to change the policy and pay our legal costs in return for a cessation of the proceedings.Read more...
NAVS Accountability report
September 1997: The NAVS published its ‘Accountability’ report which detailed the stonewalling by successive Home Office administrations on the issue of animal experiments. The report gives evidence from investigations of six UK laboratories and calls for the new Government to break the deadlock on animal experiments, and allow the NAVS to bring in experts to review project licence applications so that proposals to use animals could be challenged before the experiment takes place. A scientific committee was also suggested, charged with the task of looking to reduce and eliminate animal experimentation proposals.Read more...