You are in: Academics call for change in Government policy to tackle suffering in laboratories

The CASJ has brought together academics and experts from a range of disciplines to call on the Government to work towards an end to painful experiments on animals. The proposal comes in a submission to a crucial Home Office consultation on how it should transpose the new EU Directive on animal experimentation into UK law.

With approximately 3.5 million animals experimented on in UK labs in 2010 alone, the new legislation will have a profound effect on animal welfare in the years ahead.

The signatories, who include social scientists, ethicists and biomedical scientists, raise concerns that the Home Office’s fundamental approach lacks any strategy to protect animal welfare and runs counter to the Coalition Government’s promise to ‘work to reduce the numbers of animals used in experiments’. They also note the potential scientific and public health advantages arising from the development of new, non-animal research techniques.

To address the ethical and democratic weaknesses in the Government’s thinking, the experts propose ten core policy principles to underpin transposition of the new Directive. Some of those key principles include:

  • Permission to perform experiments on animals must be understood as a dispensation conditionally granted by the Government acting on behalf of the general public, rather than a right or routinely-acceptable practice.
  • The Government should work with all stakeholders to develop a road-map with specific targets for the reduction of animal experiments.
  • The Government should not only maintain standards in the UK that are higher than those in the Directive, but implement the Directive in a way that maximises the benefits for animal protection and public accountability.
  • The ‘mainstream’ scientific community’s lack of commitment to developing non-animal research methods highlights the need for democratic intervention at a strategic level to support modernisation within biomedical and pharmaceutical research.

In contrast, the Home Office’s stated ‘Transposition Objectives’ exclude the protection of animal welfare, and animal welfare is not considered in the department’s Impact Assessment of the Directive.

Dr Dan Lyons, CASJ CEO and author of the policy document, comments:

‘We are really pleased that experts from across the academic world support these recommendations, which are based on award-winning public policy research. They represent the consensus view of society that inflicting pain and suffering on animals poses serious ethical costs, and so a world where animals are not subjected to pain and harm in the course of research must be the ultimate goal. Therefore, it is ethically and democratically imperative that the Government adopts this goal and takes real, meaningful steps to pursue it.

The problem, historically, has been that Government policy – under pressure from animal research interest groups – has failed to match up to the rhetoric of ‘humane research’ and ‘strict regulation’. To address this we’re proposing a balanced and open policy process where all stakeholders can participate, with the protection of animal welfare as a central objective of Government policy.’

List of Expert Signatories:

  • Professor Robert Garner, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
  • Dr Alasdair Cochrane, Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, LSE
  • Professor Stephen Clark, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool
  • Professor Michael D. Coleman, Professor of Toxicology, Aston University
  • Dr Jan Deckers, Lecturer, Institute of Health and Society, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Franco Falcone, Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Erica Fudge, Professor of English Studies, University of Strathclyde
  • Professor Conor Gearty, Law Department, LSE; Barrister, Matrix Chambers
  • Professor Wyn Grant, Department of Politics and International Relations, Warwick University
  • Dr Rebekah Humphries, Philosophy Tutor, Cardiff University
  • Dr Hilda Kean, Dean and Director of MA Public History, Ruskin College, Oxford
  • Gill Langley MA PhD (Cantab), former member of the Home Office Animal Procedures Committee
  • Steven McCulloch, Veterinary Surgeon and PhD Student, Centre for Animal Welfare, Royal Veterinary College
  • Professor David Morton, Emeritus Professor of Biomedical Science and Biomedical Ethics, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Richie Nimmo, Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester
  • Dr Angus Nurse, Research Fellow, Lincoln Law School
  • Dr Kay Peggs, Principal Lecturer in Sociology, University of Portsmouth
  • Dr Wendy Sigle-Rushton, Lecturer in Social Policy, LSE
  • Dr Richard Twine, ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, University of Lancaster
  • Les Ward MBE, Marchig Animal Welfare Trust; former member of the Home Office Animal Procedures Committee
  • Dr Richard White, Lecturer in Human Geography, Sheffield Hallam University

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