Letter: Openness and animals

January 12, 2001

Your editorial ("Existing law on animal use must be enforced", THES, December 15) rightly argues that animal research should not be carried out in secrecy. The sad fact is that it is shrouded in almost pathological secrecy.

Worse, researchers are trying to ensure that it does not become more open under the Freedom of Information Act, and the government seems keen to grant their wish.

Researchers argue that they need secrecy because of the actions of militants. But we at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, which deplores violence, accept that the names and addresses of researchers and their workplaces need not be disclosed.

What we want to know is what experiments are being carried out, why and with what result. Only then will there be informed debate about vivisection; will duplicate testing be avoided; and will we see if laws to protect animals are applied properly.

Only where there are overriding reasons of true commercial sensitivity should information be withheld. Those reasons will usually not extend to information about the animal experiments themselves, and are unlikely to extend to work by academics.

Researchers should have the courage of their convictions and allow the public to judge the value and morality of their work. Secrecy serves only to encourage militancy.

Michelle Thew
Chief executive, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

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