Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing - Index > Anti-Vivisection Index

Animal testing laws 'not enforced'
February 7, 2005

Secret documents reveal that laws intended to protect laboratory animals are not being properly enforced, anti-vivisection lawyers told the high court today.

Copies of the documents relating to experiments with monkeys were obtained from Cambridge University by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) during a 10-month undercover investigation.

The BUAV says they contradict the perception held by the general public that animals are well-cared for and protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

Undercover investigators discovered monkeys which had the tops of their skulls sawn off. A stroke had been induced, and the animals left unattended for up to 15 hours.

Some monkeys were found dead in the morning after the operation and others were in a poor condition.

BUAV lawyers are asking Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting in London, for permission to challenge the legality of a government decision in 2003 to accept a report by the then-chief inspector of animals, Dr Jon Richmond.

Mr Richmond rejected BUAV claims that the "severity limits" for three licences, granted in 1998 for Cambridge animal experiments, should have been set at "substantial" and not "moderate".

Project licences are supposed to be granted where procedures "cause the least pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm".

Today Richard Drabble QC, acting for the BUAV, said the university's own documents, including one entitled Notes on Shaping Animals, described the problems of marmosets used for experiments being kept in clear plastic boxes.

One referred to the problem of the small monkeys "screaming, trying to get out of the box" and "defecating". The documents also offered solutions for when animals became "miserable" and "angry".

"We say it is crystal clear that the animals' reactions to testing in Perspex boxes do from time to time show a sense of distress. But the chief inspector in his report says 'the standard test method used is not considered to cause pain, stress or lasting harm'. We say that the document plainly envisages that they will get both miserable and angry animals involved in that type of test," Mr Drabble said.

Jonathan Swift, appearing for the Home Office, said the BUAV challenge had been brought too late and in any event was "unarguable". The chief inspector had reached his conclusions on the basis of expert assessment and evaluation, he said.

After today's hearing, the judge invited both sides to make any further submissions to him in writing. He indicated that he hoped to give his ruling within the next few weeks.