National Anti-vivisection Society

 

National Antivisection Society

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

Posted: 18 July 2018. Updated: 23 July 2018

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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.

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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.

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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.

Take action

  • Download our template letter to send to your MP – please send us any response you receive

  • Read our Parliamentary Briefing on Section 24 (summary here)