National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

Should animal researchers be left to monitor the level of suffering they are inflicting on animals?

Posted: 1 October 2008


NAVS: “There is a chasm between what animal researchers see as suffering and what the public would see as suffering. Researchers are living in a different world where the unacceptable has become acceptable, even commonplace.”

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is sceptical about a new report on ways of measuring laboratory animal suffering published today.

“Whilst we welcome greater openness about what actually happens to animals in laboratories, the fundamental problem is that there is a chasm between what animal researchers see as suffering and what the public sees as suffering. The public perception of suffering is based on common sense and more accurately reflects reality.

“We do not believe that those who are putting bolts into the heads of monkeys and force feeding dogs chemicals, are the best people to judge whether animals are suffering beyond what a licence permits*. This is surely an area where independent oversight and regulation is desperately needed,” Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director, NAVS”.

(*Home Office licences to conduct experiments on animals are granted in three categories of expected suffering – mild, moderate and substantial).

The working group who have examined ways of identifying and reporting on levels of suffering in laboratory animals was dominated by animal research industry interests, with no animal protection group representation. This leads the NAVS to ask who was putting the case for increased animal protection as opposed to vested interests and industry public relations?

Animal researchers have repeatedly blocked calls for increased accountability claiming it will increase their administrative burden. Yet they are licensed to cause pain and suffering in animals, to the point of death – is de-regulation justified under these circumstances.

Furthermore, the concerned public is assured by the Government that a strict licensing system imposes such a burden of controls, because animals need protection and the public wants to see them protected.

However in reality, NAVS investigations have revealed that swathes of animal procedures are carried out under broad-based based project licences, without prior scrutiny from the Home Office. Effectively, this is industry self-regulation.

For example in a self-regulated experiment in a UK laboratory, a tube was forced down the throats of dogs and a drug pumped directly into their stomachs. The dogs suffered diarrhoea, loss of weight, vomiting, discharge from the eyes, bleeding gums, swollen joints, lameness and sores. This experiment was carried out under a “moderate” severity project licence – thus the expected suffering of these animals was considered to be moderate, by both the researchers and the Home Office.

If a member of the public did the same thing they would be jailed, yet animal researchers continue to press for de-regulation and demand that no serious, independent critical oversight of their actions should take place.

Tim Phillips: “The public have been misled regarding the level of oversight of animal experiments for over 20 years. We are told laboratories adhere to strict husbandry guidelines, yet these can be side-stepped with impunity. We are told there is a strict licensing process, yet many experiments are not scrutinised by the Home Office prior to commencement. We are told animal experiments are only licensed when absolutely necessary, yet speculative experiments on animals and those where an alternative exists continue. So it is hard to see the latest proposals as much more than business as usual”.

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