Posted: 10 December 2013. Updated: 4 July 2014
The NAVS has renewed its call for a repeal of the Section 24 ‘secrecy clause’ following the release of the ‘Brown report’ which makes ‘a number of substantive recommendations’ following failings at Imperial College London.
One of the serious failings identified in the report was that the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body at Imperial College London was “not fit for purpose”.
The report was commissioned by the university in response to an undercover investigation which exposed breaches in, and a lack of knowledge of, UK Home Office project licences; staff incompetence and neglect that resulted in animal suffering and distress; unsupervised and inexperienced researchers anaesthetising and carrying out surgery on animals; failure to provide adequate anaesthesia and pain relief and the controversial use of a guillotine to carry out live decapitation.
As part of its review, the committee that produced the report did not witness any animal experiments. Its independence has also been called into question as the chair, Professor Brown, is Director at an animal research centre run by the Medical Research Council, which is closely linked to Imperial College London.
Following this, a report has been published by a working group of the Animals in Science Committee (ASC), focusing on lessons to be learnt from the issues of non-compliance found at Imperial. The ASC stated that “The Minister should consider whether he can continue to have confidence” in the current establishment licence holder at Imperial “retaining this role”. This assertion was met with a strong response from Imperial, who claimed that the establishment licence holder “has strengthened the College’s governance and operational management of animal research” and that they fully support his leadership and handling of responsibilities in the role.
The ASC also suggested that those working with animals at the establishment should have a “readily accessible means of raising “causes for concern””.
Other more general recommendations from the ASC include that the Home Office Inspectorate review its system for recording the outcome of inspections, in order to ensure low level points of concern are recorded and that patterns of such concerns are picked up. The ASC also suggested the Home Office Inspectorate assess its systems of risk assessment of establishments to ensure “establishments where there may be an unacceptable risk of non-compliance and/or inadequate provision are rapidly identified.”
Whilst the secrecy clause Section 24 remains in place, it is only possible for the public to see the shocking reality of life for animals inside laboratories through undercover investigations.
At a time when animal experiments have reached the highest number in decades, we cannot continue the current regime of secrecy which keeps animals suffering behind closed doors. To help prevent similar animal research failings, which have been exposed by NAVS investigations at animal research facilities across the country, the Government must repeal Section 24 and allow experiment applications to be publicly scrutinised before they are granted.
Minister Norman Baker stated, following the publication of the ASC report, “The Government will publish its response as soon as possible”.