Head smashing caught on film

March 10, 2000

A technician working in an Oxford University laboratory has been secretly filmed smashing a mouse's head against a laboratory bench.

The video shows the technician pick up the mouse by its tail and swing it above his head before hitting the creature's head against the worktop and laughing. "I completely mashed its head," he says.

The episode was caught on video shot by the National Anti-Vivisection Society over eight months to April 1999. The NAVS is using the footage to campaign for tighter controls on animal experimentation. Ultimately, it would like animal experiments to cease.

Yet the killing was within Home Office guidelines. The code of practice for the humane killing of animals states that concussion of the brain by striking the cranium is suitable for rodents and rabbits up to 1 kilo.

A spokeswoman for the university said: "The University of Oxford takes animal welfare extremely seriously and expects strict compliance with the terms of Home Office licences, certificates and codes of practice from all those working with animals.

"It is satisfied that the technique shown, concussion to the brain by striking the cranium, was correctly applied in accordance with the Home Office code of practice. We expect our staff to act in a professional manner at all times and the issues relating to this piece of film have been discussed with the staff concerned."

A statement issued by Oxford said the video footage depicted the technician training a junior member of staff, who was really a NAVS investigator. The method is not one that is regularly used in the unit, and was being shown for training purposes only. Since the killing was within the Home Office guidelines, the identity of the technician was not revealed.

The NAVS video also showed dogs kept at the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, filmed in 1994. The school is now part of Imperial College, London.

The dogs had no bedding despite Home Office guidelines that state bedding material should be provided unless it is clearly inappropriate.

"In over ten years of studying United Kingdom laboratories, the NAVS is yet to find a laboratory that provides its dogs with bedding," said a NAVS spokesman.

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