National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

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

Posted: 20 December 2017. Updated: 20 December 2017


The National Anti-Vivisection Society have long held concerns about the secrecy surrounding the process of animal research licensing and call for licence applications to be made public before experiments are given the go-ahead. More transparency would allow for easier identification of non-animal technology to replace animal use.

Non-Technical Summaries (NTS) are provided by animal users and published by the Animals in Scientific Procedures Unit (ASRU) at the Home Office after licences have been granted, and are one of the very few ways to gather some information on what happens to animals in laboratories. The NAVS analysed the NTS documents and requested more information through Freedom of Information requests. The responses unveiled a lack of awareness about non-animal methods and failures in the assessment of project applications to acknowledge current scientific evidence on the validity of animal testing.

Available alternatives in education and training

An applicant claiming that alternatives cannot entirely replace the use of animals to teach pharmacology did not provide relevant evidence supporting this claim, yet the animal use was authorised to go ahead. The applicant did not acknowledge that reviews have found non-animal methods to be equal to or better than the use of real animals for learning in higher education and training. The applicant gave ASRU out of date information and recent and relevant evidence on the validity of non-animal techniques in education and training were missed.

Incomplete information on dosing

An application for a toxicity testing project did not specify which dosing routes were to be used in the six species of animal used in testing. The dose route should be important when assessing the harms caused to animals in project evaluation. Although all dosing cause a degree of stress, methods such as gavage, where a tube is forced down the animal’s throat and substances pumped directly into the stomach, have potential to cause additional physical suffering. Without the dose route for each species being detailed, it is unclear how precise consideration of the suffering to each species was evaluated.

Evidence on animal test validity and reliability

We requested information on the evidence supplied to support a claim that progression of medicines to humans “could not occur safely”, without animal testing of pharmaceuticals. The response was a list of the laws on mandatory testing of medicines on animals before going on to be trialled humans. Although some animal tests are required by law in order to get products to the market, accepting this legal requirement as evidence of the value of animal models reveals that there is little critical evaluation of the validity of the models, which current scientific evidence suggests are unreliable.

The validation of scientific models, such as that carried out for the acceptance of non-animal methods, involves systematic evaluation to demonstrate accuracy and reliability. Animal models have not undergone large scale systematic validation in this way. For one project licence application, legal requirements to conduct animal tests were also used as evidence that animal use is extensively validated. Where scientific reviews have been carried out, results suggest animal models do not reliably translate to humans.

Help the NAVS campaign for unreliable animal tests to be replaced with modern non-animal methods!

  • Urge your MP to support and press for proposals for the adoption of advanced alternatives.

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