National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

End secret suffering in UK labs

Posted: 27 March 2013. Updated: 19 July 2018


The NAVS has long held concerns about the secrecy surrounding animal research in the UK and the process for licensing experiments. For years we have demanded greater transparency, to allow easier identification of non-animal technologies to replace animal use and ultimately save lives.

In 2014, the UK government carried out a public consultation on Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) - the law governing the use of animals in experiments – which is known as the secrecy clause. Four years on and the results to the consultation still remain unpublished. Proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which would have affected Section 24, caused initial delays but were rejected in 2015. Since then, Brexit has been given as the reason for further delay.

Section 24 prevents open public debate and wider scientific scrutiny of the use of animals in research and the NAVS continues to call for its repeal.

The hidden suffering of millions of animals is justification enough to lift Section 24 but this secrecy clause also contradicts the UK’s right to freedom of information enshrined in law. It is at odds, too, with the commitments to transparency and public accountability within the EU Directive 2010/63 on animals in research, which has been incorporated into UK law.


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 ‘Non-Technical Summaries’ of Project Licence Applications - submitted by animal researchers to the Home Office - are one of the few sources of information on animal use available. The NAVS research team searches through hundreds of documents, reviewing these summaries and submits Freedom of Information Act requests to request more detail on how projects are assessed, particularly how the availability of non-animal methods are determined.

Please help us end the secret suffering of animals in laboratories.

Take action


The NAVS campaign to shine a light on animal tests

Exposed: failings in the evaluation of animal research in the UK

More transparency would allow for easier identification of non-animal technology to replace animal use. Read more here.

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...

Once-in-a-generation opportunity to end lab secrecy

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. 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.
Read more…

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.

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.

© National Anti-Vivisection Society