National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

Animal researchers failing to provide basic care, government report reveals.

Posted: 13 March 2018. Updated: 13 March 2018

A new Home Office report has revealed the suffering of animals in research, not from their use in experiments but a shocking lack of basic care. Condemned by the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the catalogue of suffering includes a failure to provide food and water, a recurring issue accounting for nearly one-fifth of all cases of non-compliance.

Jan Creamer, President of the National Anti-Vivisection Society said, “The failure to provide basic care for animals in research is disturbing and raises further questions about compliance and suffering during the procedures themselves. Using advanced non-animal methods avoids such doubts and provides better results, for animals and people.”

The following incidents were published in the 2016 annual report of the Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU), who regulate the use of animals in research. They show a failure by UK researchers to provide basic care for the animals used:

  • A primate was left overnight in a recovery incubator after surgery, without food or water.
  • Hundreds of thousands of mice were overbred, exceeding the limit allowed. In one case, a project licence holder knowingly continued to overbreed mice for a year, receiving only a letter of reprimand from the Home Office. In another, almost 180,000 EXTRA mice were accidentally bred and used in a project due to multiple people using different computer systems to record their animal use; this significant number of unauthorised procedures resulted again in just a letter of reprimand.
  • Two mice were left without food despite 3 daily checks, no one noticing their deteriorating condition until one was found dead. In one case, two mice died due to a lack of water over a weekend. In another, the deteriorating condition of two breeding mice due to a lack of food was not spotted by three different technicians over two days – one mouse was found dead, the other was killed.
  • Mice died from suffocation in two instances due to contained cages not being properly fixed to air vents.
  • Five mice used to study bone cancer were anaesthetised and put into a box to be imaged and then immediately killed, but they awoke from the anaesthetic early. Four mice were then killed, but the fifth was forgotten and left in the box overnight with no food or water.
  • Pain relief was not given to a rat in the days following knee joint surgery when the licence holder failed to leave instructions with animal technicians. The same person completed records relating to the animal for the time they were absent, making up assumptions about the pain or suffering the rat experienced. They received only a letter of reprimand.
  • Due to “miscommunication” 74 chicks were killed or died after 65 hours without adequate humidity.

All applications to conduct animal experiments are considered and assessed by ASRU inspectors; there are around 20 full time inspectors responsible for inspecting animal laboratories and thousands of active animal research projects across the UK.

The most recent Home Office figures show that 3,867,528 animals were used for research in 2016. Mice are the most commonly used species (2,863,717 mice) followed by fish (535,069). Monkeys (2,440) are used mainly to test drugs and typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds, while experiments on dogs (3,530) dogs can involve force-feeding compounds or having toxic substances pumped into their veins.

Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (2012 Amended) (ASPA) places a blanket ban on the release of details about animal experiments. Proposals to reform Section 24 (the ‘secrecy clause’) were announced four years ago, and the public consulted on the issue, but action has yet to be taken, or the results of the consultation published.

The implementation of EU laws on animal experiments in the UK brought the requirement for Non-Technical Summaries (NTS). When applying for a licence to carry out animal experiments, researchers must provide a lay summary of their proposed research, so that objective information on animal experiments is available to keep the public informed. The NAVS has carried out extensive analysis of the NTS submissions and found that they fail to perform their basic function of providing impartial information on the use of animal experiments to the public.

Media Contact: Devon Prosser | 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 | [email protected]

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