A boycott by anti-vivisection groups of a meeting next week aimed at breaking the impasse on animal experimentation has led to fears that only moderates will be represented.
Both the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the National Anti-Vivisection Society have declined invitations to the meeting organised by Colin Blakemore, an Oxford physiologist, Les Ward, director of Advocates for Animals, and Kenneth Boyd, a specialist in medical ethics.
The boycotters say the gathering is weighted towards pro-vivisection interests. In particular they disagree with the Boyd group's main proposal made in April that local ethics committees, which could include a layperson, should examine proposals for animal experiments. About 300 responses to the proposal had been received from around the world, Mr Ward said. Most were enthusiastic about ethical committees.
Attending next week's meeting will be research councils and scientific societies. Mr Ward said of the boycotters: "I don't know what they have to fear. Here is an opportunity to talk to the main funding bodies and the main scientists. Clearly it's disappointing. We have middle-of-the-road animal welfare people. It would enhance things if we had more critical groups."
Malcolm Eames, director of BUAV, said: "We have had considerable unease that the group met initially in secret and that it is now holding semi-public meetings by invitation only. We are certainly not in any way opposed to being involved in public discussion and debate."
The Boyd group hopes to hold meetings several times a year.