National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

Celebrities support call to stop the secrecy on World Day for Laboratory Animals

Posted: 24 April 2013. Updated: 29 October 2013


Today, on World Day for Laboratory Animals, 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, Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2012.

A giant postcard calling for repeal of Section 24 was signed by celebrities Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Twiggy, Julian Clary, Alexei Sayle, Annette Crosbie, Benjamin Zephaniah, Brian Blessed, Gary Webster, Jenny Seagrove, Julie Peasgood, Prunella Scales, Rick Wakeman, Samantha Womack and Wendy Turner-Webster, and handed in to 10 Downing Street on the day.

  • Find out more about secrecy in the lab here
  • Order your campaign postcards here
  • Write to your MP – download our template letter here

Celebrities speak out in support of the campaign

Brian Blessed: “We are the guardians of this planet, and the animals are there for us to protect not to persecute. We must end the terrible suffering that animals endure in the laboratory.”

Joanna Lumley: “The public has a right to know what animals are subjected to in the name of research, and the alternatives that could be used to replace them. The secrecy that currently shrouds such tests must end now.”

Annette Crosbie: "That animals suffer in laboratories at all is dreadful, but the fact that this suffering is hidden from public view, and subject to such secrecy, is unforgiveable."

Twiggy: "While animals continue to unnecessarily languish in laboratories, the very least we can do is to give them a voice. That’s why I’m supporting the NAVS campaign for greater transparency in animal research laboratories and urge the government to repeal Section 24.”

Removal of the secrecy clause would allow wider scientific and public appraisal of animal experiments. Only technical details of proposed experiments need be made available – personal details and commercially sensitive information would be protected as they are now, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It would also bring UK legislation into line with the new Government-supported European Directive on animals used in research, in which public accountability and access to information are key principles.

Currently, licence applications are made in secret and awarded in secret. There is no public access to information before a licence is granted to allow wider scientific and public scrutiny of the need to use animals. Although the Home Office provides online ‘non technical summaries’ of licences that have been awarded, the debate about whether the animals should have been used takes place after the event. The public has a right to know what animals are being subjected to behind closed doors.

Recent examples of animal research where the NAVS would have wanted to see wider scientific and public scrutiny before the animals were used

At Glasgow University, female hamsters suffered probes inserted into their bodies and were then given Clostridium difficile (diarrhoea causing) bacteria and antibiotics. They suffered extensive damage as a result of the infection, and were killed at 12, 24 and 36 hours later. One group were killed when they succumbed to infection after 62 hours.

At St George’s, University of London, female monkeys were repeatedly dosed with an HIV protein and a gel, into their vaginas. This repetitive research was conducted in parallel with a human study and takes a scientific backward step, as it attempts to use HIV in animals to study the primate version, SHIV. There are also other studies in humans that are already further developed than primate research.

At the University of Manchester, genetically engineered, visually impaired mice were made to swim to an escape platform, indicated by a light, and compared with the results from mice with normal vision, performing the same escape task. Other mice were subjected to needle probes and contact lens style electrodes in their eyes, and recordings made from their eyes and brains. This use of animals repetitive and worse was conducted alongside non-invasive research with human volunteers.

At the Government’s biological warfare facility in Porton Down, Wiltshire, twenty-two marmoset monkeys were surgically implanted with probes and exposed to a bacterium, which caused deadly disease. The monkeys suffered breathlessness, rising temperatures, pneumonia and bleeding lungs. The course of the disease is known to differ between primates and humans. Similar experiments have been carried out since 1925 and the justification for using these intelligent, emotional and sensitive primates was their small size, allowing “ethical, safe housing within biocontaminent restraints, as well as their low cost and availability”.

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