Call for animal rights reps

April 28, 1995

The warring sides in the animal testing debate have come together for the first time to produce a report on how to overcome their impasse.

They have proposed that every research institution should appoint a committee to oversee the ethics of its animal research - possibly with an animal rights representative on it.

The group was brought together by Colin Blakemore, of the physiology laboratory at Oxford, who has been a target for sometimes violent attacks by animal rights extremists; the Reverend Kenneth Boyd, of the Institute of Medical Ethics in Edinburgh; and Les Ward, director of Advocates for Animals.

The people they gathered included members of the research councils, the Royal Society, the Royal Medical Colleges and moral philosophers. All attended in their individual capacities .

In the group's first public statement, made in Nature, it says: "The strength of opinion on both sides of the debate about the use of animals in research has generated mutual suspicion and discouraged rational discussion."

The group has decided that openness in information on experiments, and accountability, are the way forward. It has asked for feedback on its proposal for local committees.

Professor Blakemore said: "I wouldn't be afraid to see representatives of animal rights activists on the committees. In a sense they would be saying: 'I believe that some applications should be approved'."

But the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said that the proposals would be a "public relations exercise to deflect justified criticism of animal research".

And the Animal Welfare Committee of the Royal Physiological Society said recently: "There is no reason to suppose that the purposes of the 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act would be better served if a mandatory system of animal ethics committees were in place."

Mark Matfield, director of the Research Defence Society, said it was in favour of bringing people together but past attempts failed.

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