National Anti-vivisection Society

 

National Antivisection Society

House of Lords Select Committee on Animal Experiments

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The NAVS gave extensive written and oral evidence to the Select Committee which announced its findings on July 24 2002.

Our key recommendations to the Committee were:-


freedom of information and animal experiments - repeal S.24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986;

on the need for a national centre for the replacement of the use of animals in experiments;

reform of the Home Secretary’s advisory body, the Animal Procedures Committee;

the setting up of a new Board of Assessment on the use of animals in research; reform of the Home Office’s Animal Procedures Inspectorate (ASPI) - to turn it into a policing force, with the remit to seek out and report upon improper laboratory practice; to increase the ASPI to a minimum of one inspector per establishment

Press Release- 21st January 2003

Threat of Violence is a Red Herring: Government Concedes Call for Freedom of Information on Animal Experiments

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is delighted with today’s concession from the government that more openness is needed on animal experiments, but is dismayed that the government plans to delay action.

After an eight year campaign for any Freedom of Information Act to be applied to animal experiments, the NAVS has welcomed the announcement by Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth that the government agrees with the NAVS’ contention that, in light of the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the confidentiality clause in the legislation governing animal experimentation is redundant.

"This is a great step forward,” said NAVS Chief Executive Jan Creamer, “it is time for the government to stand up to the pressure from the scientific community to maintain the completely unwarranted blanket of secrecy on animal experiments.

"The public is deeply concerned about the use of animals in research, but is excluded from access to any information which would allow them to judge for themselves whether the experiments are necessary. To continue with this level of secrecy only serves to convince people that there is something to hide. It is secrecy and exclusion that makes people angry."

Although disappointed that the announcement is to be followed with yet a further period of consultation, as there has already been two years of consultation, the NAVS believes that the scientific community is going to be hard-pressed to find further excuses for delay.

Jan Creamer notes, “The NAVS has been calling for freedom of information on animal experiments for eight years, the Animal Procedures Committee has agreed there is a need for greater openness, a House of Lords Select Committee on Animals has supported our call, now the government has conceded we need greater openness, surely it is time that the government simply stopped prevaricating."

Red Herring

"The claim that freedom of information would threaten scientists’ personal safety is a red herring", said Jan Creamer. “The Freedom of Information Act 2000 already provides for personal safety and confidentiality. It simply is not necessary to maintain this blanket confidentiality clause.

"If the scientific community believes in what it is doing to animals in laboratories, it should be prepared to be questioned in public".

Press Release- 24th July 2002

House of Lords Select Committee: Will Labour miss an opportunity?

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) welcomed only some parts of the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures, published today.

Although disappointed that the Select Committee 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, so that organisations like NAVS can challenge the need for the use of animals before licence is granted.

The Lords also supported NAVS’ suggestion for a UK Centre for the Development of Alternatives, to draw together expertise and funding to push forward advances in non-animal research.

But the NAVS is gravely concerned that the Lords maintained the sanitised veneer over animal research. The report does not show an honest picture of the brutality suffered by animals in research; NAVS undercover investigations have shown that the current legislation cannot protect lab animals, which are poisoned, blinded, starved, and forced to live in sterile, impoverished environments.

The NAVS were pleased that the Lords accepted that non-animal research methods were preferable, both for medical research and animal welfare.

Jan Creamer, Director of the NAVS says: “If the Government listens to this report, removes the secrecy on animal experiments and shows commitment to the development of better methods, both people and animals would benefit. We hope that the Government responds to the public anger and frustration caused by excessive secrecy on this issue".

The NAVS evidence to the inquiry also suggested:

  • A joint board of assessment to review applications to use animals, and suggest non-animal alternatives. Experts from anti-vivisection groups, animal welfare groups and non-animal research experts could contribute expertise.
  • The Government’s Animal Procedures Committee be given real power and be put in charge of the whole licensing process.
  • The Government’s Inspectorate become a policing force and be charged with the job of seeking out and dealing with improper laboratory practice.
  • Inspectorate numbers be increased from a paltry 22, to at least one per establishment - this would mean a force of around 258 inspectors.

There are 2 million animals used in research every year in the UK.
For further information contact NAVS.

Phone: 020 7630 3340
Fax: 020 7828 2179
E-mail: info@navs.org.uk

Note for Editors

Section 24 of the 1986 Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act bars release of all information on animal experiments and, NAVS believes, has given rise to increasing public frustration on this issue.

A Centre for the Development of Alternatives could be jointly funded between government and non-animal research funding bodies.

A Board of Assessment to review the use of animals could benefit from access to worldwide expertise.

House of Lords Select Committee: Background & Findings

Campaigner May-Aug 2002

On Wednesday July 24 2002, the House of Lords select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures finally announced its findings. The NAVS attended the press conference and issued a press statement in response. Predictably, there is much that is depressing about the report, which whitewashes the shocking reality of life in the UK’s animal labs. However there are also glimmers of hope. Significantly, the Committee has joined the Animal Procedures Committee in supporting the NAVS call for repeal of Section 24 and greater freedom of information on animal experiments - surely the Government will have to stop prevaricating now.

Background

The Select Committee was appointed by the House of Lords in March 2001 to conduct an inquiry into animal experiments in the UK. A call was put out for submissions and the NAVS responded with a dossier of evidence. We took examples from our numerous undercover investigations inside UK laboratories to show the suffering these animals endure, and the repetition and duplication of experiments and those where a non-animal method was clearly available. We provided referenced evidence supporting our core argument, that vivisection is not only cruel but is bad science. We were subsequently asked for additional supporting evidence and provided this.

During the summer of 2001, the Select Committee began hearing evidence from approaching 40 organisations and individuals, including a minister, civil servants from the Home Office, drug companies, charities that fund vivisection, pro-vivisection lobbying bodies (such as Research Defence Society and Association of Medical Research Charities), through to a handful of anti-vivisectionists. Those defending vivisection included Colin Blakemore, Clive Page, and William “Twink” Allen (who previously appeared as a defence witness for Mary Chipperfield - see sister organisation, Animal Defenders International).

NAVS representatives attended many of the hearings. The questioning varied greatly and included shameful timewasting, such as animal welfarists being asked, repeatedly, their views on mouse traps; one anti-vivisection group was lured into spending most of their evidence time talking about anything other than animal experiments. On the other hand, too often it seemed, vivisectionists were allowed to expound the virtues of vivisection unquestioned.

The NAVS selected March of 2002 to give oral evidence, and were represented by Chief Executive Jan Creamer and Council Member Tim Phillips. Dr Joanne Knight gave evidence on behalf of the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research. A transcript of the hearing can be seen at the House of Lords website:
http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld/ldanimal.htm

Following our oral evidence, we were again asked for specific information. We did this in a Supplementary Memorandum, which can also be viewed at the House of Lords website. This provided background on projects supported by the Lord Dowding Fund and other non-animal methods. We outlined particular concerns relating to genetically modified animals including the additional suffering and high death toll and how non-animal methods could be used instead.

We summarised six steps that would enable vivisection to start being dismantled under the existing legislation.

1. National Centre to Replace the Use of Animals in Experiments. This could not only develop modern scientific techniques, but even more importantly ensure good science is drawn into formal protocols for legislative requirements etc.

2. Repeal Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act and apply the Freedom of Information Act to licence applications. This would signal a change of culture at the Home Office, introducing a policy of ‘presumption in favour’ of disclosing information.

3. Create a Board of Assessment to hear opposing arguments to animal experiments before licences are awarded. This would be a forum in which anti-vivisectionists could vigorously oppose vivisection on scientific and ethical grounds, without being manouvered into sanctioning animal tests. This would utilise worldwide expertise - if an experiment has been done in Japan, why repeat it here.

4. Overhaul the Animal Procedures Committee to give it real power to regulate all animal experiments.

5. Overhaul the role of the Home Office Inspectorate, dramatically increase numbers and turn this into a policing force. It was stressed during the hearings that the abuse uncovered by our lab investigations and at Huntingdon Life sciences could not have been uncovered by the Home Office Inspectorate.

These are practical and reasonable proposals which can be implemented now, under existing legislation. They would give us the opportunity as anti-vivisectionists seeking abolition to make positive steps forward on a case by case basis.

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.

The Committee reports - July 2002

Disappointingly, the Select Committee began their summary of findings by stating that animal experiments are necessary. This was perhaps not surprising, given the large number of pro-vivisection interests that gave evidence. Of equal concern is that the Lords maintained the sanitised veneer over animal research. The report does not reflect the brutality suffered by animals in research; NAVS undercover investigations have shown that the current legislation cannot protect lab animals, which are poisoned, blinded, mutilated, and forced to live in sterile, impoverished environments.

However, with regard to non-animal research, the Committee concluded: “The development of scientifically valid non-animal systems of research and testing is important, not just to improve animal welfare, but to provide substantial benefits for human health.” It is heartening to see that it acknowledged that research unfettered by species differences benefits people. The Committee recommends that Government should more proactviely seek replacements to animal tests.

The Committee recommends that the Home Office Inspectorate be reviewed by a body other than itself and that labs should be inspected at least once a year by an inspector from another area. Whilst acknowledging a problem with the existing system, this would hardly have identified the abuses at HLS, Charing Cross & Westminster Medical School or the other laboratories we have exposed. An annual police visit to your area would hardly do wonders for crime prevention!

There are disturbing recommendations to speed up the licensing process and to allow overseas vivisectors here to experiment without passing UK training - many vivisectors pressed for this during the inquiry. The NAVS, which has exposed a complex licence being awarded in just three working days, stated that the public would expect it to take months to get permission to deliberately cause pain and suffering to an animal. So, the next time you are waiting for a new passport, think to yourself, you could probably get a licence to torture animals faster.

Also the Committee recommends that local ethical review boards be allowed to make minor amendments to licences. History shows us that this would be abused.

Another set back is a recommendation to exclude genetically modified animals that are not experimented on from the published statistics. Experimenters are scared of releasing these figures because the public get a true indication of their animal carnage - hundreds of thousands of animals bred and simply killed, unwanted.

More positively, the Committee has supported the NAVS call to strengthen the APC and more clearly distinguish it from the Home Office. Also they have called for a centre for alternatives.

On public information they state: “Section 24 of the 1986 Act (the confidentiality clause) should be repealed. Specific justification should be made for each class of information that needs to be kept confidential, such as the identity of researchers and matters of commercial confidentiality and intellectual property.” They say that the burden of proof should be reversed with openness presumed and justification required for secrecy; and cite NAVS evidence in the section of the report dealing with this.

Conclusion

It is frustrating to see another report maintaining the status quo and riddled with compromises and easy to think “What’s the point?". However, it should be noted that the vivisection industry mobilised heavily for this Committee. Had the NAVS not participated in the way we did, we might have seen the paltry protection lab animals have rolled back years - that is certainly what our opponents were seeking.

Importantly, our key recommendations were taken up - freedom of information on animal experiments, and a national centre for the replacement of animals. We look forward to lobbying hard to ensure that these recommendations are taken up.

The Government is expected to respond by January 2003. It now has the opportunity to live up to its election promises on animal issues.

The Government responds to the House of Lords Select Committee

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