Animals in open light

May 15, 2014

It is a great shame that Michelle Thew from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (Letters, 8 May) seeks to pour scorn on universities’ moves to be more open about the animal research they conduct. The section of the legislation covering animal research in the UK that was introduced to protect researchers from the violence visited upon them by extremists is now being reconsidered by the government to further improve transparency.

Thankfully, the threat to researchers has greatly diminished, and it is time not only to reform the law but also to encourage more openness in the animal research community. This is what the Concordat on Openness is all about. As Understanding Animal Research told the Commons Justice Committee in 2012: “We believe that more information about animal research should proactively be made available to the public, while safeguarding information which could be used by extremists to target individuals and institutions.” I hope that the BUAV would agree that this is a fair compromise that recognises public bodies’ legal requirements to safeguard the safety of their employees.

The concordat commits its signatories to providing accurate descriptions of the benefits, harms and limitations of animal research, as well as to being open about such research’s impact on animal welfare and the ethical considerations involved. Why are animal rights groups nervous about openness? What are they worried about their supporters discovering? That all veterinary treatments are developed using animal research? That more than 97 per cent of research involves mice, fish, rats or birds? That half of all experiments relate to the breeding of GM mice?

For groups that rely on giving their own account of what goes on inside animal research facilities, openness is a real threat. Let’s show people the reality of the groundbreaking research that is being done on their behalf so that they can make up their own minds.

Wendy Jarrett
Chief executive
Understanding Animal Research

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