Bristol website statement pre-empts the act

September 10, 2004

Bristol University recently became one of the first universities to issue a public statement about its research using animals in anticipation of the new freedom of information laws.

"We debated whether we should put something in the public domain, but in the current climate of greater openness about what we do, we felt the time was right," said one Bristol scientist who wished to remain anonymous.

The short document that the university has placed on its website explains the process of animal research and the controls to which it is subject.

This statement will provide a general response to many of the requests for information that the university expects when the law comes into force next year.

"A lot of this sort of communication should be done by the Home Office, but there isn't much sign of it so universities have to act," the scientist explained.

Bristol has every reason to fear animal rights extremists.

Many working there have vivid memories of the bomb attacks by animal rights activists in 1989 and 1990. One bomb partially destroyed the university's main Senate House building.

A second device went off in a scientist's car as he was driving from his home to the university. The scientist escaped alive, but shrapnel from the blast seriously injured a young child who was in a pram nearby.

Bristol hopes that other universities will follow suit and place similar public statements about animal research on their websites.

"It is a truism that needs to be repeated that there is strength in numbers," one researcher said.

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