Seeking full disclosure

June 26, 2014

Adrian Deeny of University College London makes a plea for accurate reporting of animal experiments, in light of coverage in the Daily Mirror of a report on cat research in the UK (“An open and shut case”, Opinion, 12 June).

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection wholeheartedly agrees. Our report was meticulously researched. What is clear, though not apparent from Deeny’s article, is that cats often suffer greatly in research, quite apart from the confined and unnatural conditions in which they spend their lives, and the fact that they are often imported from questionable breeding companies abroad.

A recent BUAV survey of non-technical summaries of licence applications for animal research underlines why openness is so important. These summaries are compulsory under European law. Of 119 examined, 18 per cent gave no explanation of what was to be done to the animals and 55 per cent gave only a partial explanation (ie, key techniques were omitted). Eighty-nine per cent gave no information about frequency of the intervention (eg, number of surgeries or injections) and 86 per cent gave no indication of how long the animals would be used. Twenty per cent did not describe in any way the adverse effects the animals might experience. By contrast, the summaries stressed the alleged importance of the research.

The recent Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, which Deeny champions, may have some merit. But it is voluntary and enables institutions to control who they invite to their labs and what information they give out.

The real test for animal researchers is whether they advocate the removal of Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which prevents the government from disclosing any information about animal experiments. So far, they have been unusually coy about their position. Section 24 is currently under government review.

The present situation cannot engender a sensible debate about the ethics and scientific validity of animal experiments.

Michelle Thew
Chief executive
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

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