Examination of Witnesses (Questions 900-919)|
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
900. This is a tremendously important point
that is not well understood because people tend to think if you
are going to do research on intense pain you have to cause intense
pain in the animal. What you have just said is very important
because you do not have to. You are saying that you can observe
the physiology or neurology of the animal even with quite minor
suffering on the part of the animal and still get information
about intense pain in humans. Is that right?
(Dr Matfield) I would have to put a caveat on my answer
in that I am not an expert on pain research but those people I
have talked to in this area have informed me that you tend to
use the very first symptom that might indicate discomfort, rather
than letting it rise to the level of causing overt pain. It is
the principle of a humane end point again. If you can get an answer
when the animal begins to feel a measurable degree of discomfort
at a certain dosage, there is absolutely no justification in going
901. As long as the human condition is serious,
there should not be any restrictions on what is done to animals
other than the ones you outline. The mouse models used for cystic
fibrosis or the monkey models used for Parkinson's or the use
of monkeys to test psychological problemsas long as there
is a real human condition there that needs looking into and these
are the reasonable models, that sort of level of suffering, in
your view, is always justified?
(Dr Layward) Within the law and the way the statutory
law is at the moment, yes.
902. Would you accept that anybody had the right
to say, "No, we disagree with you and you may not do it"?
(Dr Layward) Obviously we need open debate about where
that line is drawn.
903. How would you conduct that debate? Between
who and in what forum?
(Dr Layward) I can give an example through the work
that I do. I work for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust which is a charity,
and previously worked for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. We had
a very open debate about the use of animals with our membership,
with the lay public. Through a variety of means, including our
magazines where there were debates and inviting our members to
contribute to this debate in order to inform the charity how we
were going to further medical research using animals, we opened
this debate very widely.
904. It is a very specialised group of people
who have a particular interest.
(Dr Layward) Absolutely. This is not the widest public
debate that we engaged in. We engage with people who are interested
in our charity for their own purposes, usually because they have
a member of their family with that particular disease. There is
no reason why these debates should not continue and I would certainly
encourage that type of debate.
(Dr Matfield) I can think of one obvious area of research
where we do not accept any justification which is the use of great
apes, chimpanzees and so forth for research. In this country,
I do not think any scientist has applied for permission to use
a great ape in research for over 25 years.
905. Although you say there are at least four
examples where they have gone abroad with it. If I remember rightly,
Oxford Imperial and a couple of other distinguished institutions
have done chimpanzee experiments in Amsterdam but nonetheless
their institutions' names have been attached to the papers resulting.
Is that something which you would disapprove of?
(Dr Matfield) It is an area that provokes an active
debate in the scientific community. If I remember the cases correctly,
they were part of a large, international collaboration working
on an AIDS vaccine, which is perhaps the only level of justification
where you could begin to approach this being done, but even there,
suggesting that this research should be done in the United Kingdom
would not be contemplated. In an international collaboration,
the majority of the researchers would not be United Kingdom researchers
and the United Kingdom voice would not carry the day.
Earl of Onslow
906. With great respect, that is a very casuistic
argument. Either you get associated with it and you are prepared
to take the responsibility or you say, "No, I do not want
anything to do with this. I think it is morally beyond the pale
to play with great apes and I am not going to have my research
institution or anything associated with it because I think it
(Dr Matfield) For those scientists, they have obviously
made that choice because they published the papers with their
names on them.
907. Is it because the scientists themselves
have reservations about using great apes or because they think
that there may be outweighing benefit but it cannot be done because
of public opinion in the United Kingdom?
(Dr Matfield) I would think both, my Lord. No scientist
would think of using any animal without having a reservation about
it. To think of using a great ape would produce the most serious
reservations and the vast majority of scientists in this country
would not consider this. Clearly, if you are dealing with something
like a vaccine against AIDS, it does not represent every scientist's
Lord Hunt of Chesterton
908. Does your Society have a society policy
that, no matter how potentially catastrophic the disease for humans,
under no circumstances would it endorse the use of great apes
or do you reach a threshold at which you say, "Our Society
does not have a policy and we leave it to individuals"? Where
is your Society's line?
(Dr Matfield) Our Society's line is to represent the
broad views of the scientific community. This case is so apparent
it is not anything we have ever discussed. Nobody has ever applied
for approval to use great apes in research in Britain for so long.
909. Supposing there is another AIDS, an equivalent
of AIDS and this was a major thing in the whole world. Supposing
the issue arose that we needed to do some experiments with great
apes. Is your Society saying that we should not?
(Dr Matfield) This is essentially a thought experiment
you are proposing. If the AIDS virus became as transmissible as
the common cold virus, for example, in that sort of disaster scenario,
normal rules do go out of the window because you are talking about
the survival of the human race. I would hope no one ever has to
face such a question but if they did I would have no doubt the
majority of people faced with the extinction of the human species
would say, "I am sorry, we come before great apes."
Earl of Onslow
910. You are not saying do not do it on great
apes; you are saying that if push comes to shove and it is absolutely
desperate then we will use great apes, or are you saying you will
leave it to the individual scientists?
(Dr Matfield) With the world as it is at the moment
and with the scientific knowledge we have at the moment
Earl of Onslow: I am not a scientist but I think
I understand the question which is basically a very simple one.
If it is totally the only way to get that information in the face
of catastrophic threat you would be prepared to say, "The
Society does not approve of experimentation on great apes"
or, "The Society will leave it to the individual consciences
of scientists" or alternatively, "Yes", in the
scenario painted by a combination of myself and Lord Hunt, "We
have no objection."
911. These are tremendously hypothetical questions
where you are testing to destruction so while I invite you to
reply you will not have failed the test if you have not satisfied
Lords Hunt and Onslow.
(Dr Matfield) This is the sort of point I have debated
at length with people because in that sort of disaster scenario
I would not expect it to go to an individual's scientific conscience.
A disaster solution would be required. I would expect government
to mandate it to happen if it was the only way to save the human
912. Do you think that the Act's definition
of a procedure is adequate? How could a procedure be better defined?
(Dr Matfield) We were fascinated by the question and
debated it and our answer is no, we could not find a way to improve
Lord Hunt of Chesterton
913. The answer is yes.
(Dr Matfield) Could it be better defined? No.
914. Is it adequate? Yes.
(Dr Matfield) Then it is yes and no.
915. Does the use of GM animals in research
raise any special social or ethical questions?
(Dr Festing) Yes. The sheer scale of the benefits
from the use of genetically modified animals is of great significance.
We feel if we can get beyond the concerns and scare stories the
use of genetically modified animals should be of considerable
interest to patients and the public. We know that over five per
cent of the population will have developed a genetic condition
by the age of 25. It is of great concern. AMRC considers that
the use of genetically modified animals is inevitably going to
lead to great advances in public health and the treatment of patients.
I am sure you will be familiar with some of the uses of genetically
modified animals: the discovery of gene function, developing new
therapies and perhaps most importantly the ability to investigate
diseases where we have never been able to do so before. For example,
cystic fibrosis using the mouse. Socially, we feel that the issue
here of public confidence is going to be vital. It is very important
and we very much welcome a continued debate on all aspects of
the use of genetically modified animals.
(Dr Matfield) To look at the point about the ethical
questions, again, this has been debated quite a lot and I think
it is becoming quite clear that the important ethical questions
about the genetic modification of animals for research is whether
it causes any novel or new forms of harm to the animal or whether
it produces some sort of insult to the integrity of the animal
or its species. We, as a human society, have been genetically
modifying animals for thousands of years in agriculture, as pets
and so forth, using selective breeding. I have not yet seen a
convincing argument that suggests that there will be any novel
forms of pain, harm, distress or suffering that could be caused
by the modern genetic modification techniques that could not be
caused by the old genetic modification techniques or any of the
other experimental technologies we use in research on animals
these days. If one were to pose the question is there going to
be a novel form of harm or insult to the animal in terms of welfare
and suffering, I do not believe the case is proven yet. On the
question of the species integrity of an animal, as a biologist
I am very aware that species integrity is an unusual concept in
biological terms. Natural evolution has been changing species
for the whole of evolution and species are not static, unchanging
things. They shift with environmental pressures and genetic pressures
and so harm to species integrity I find a difficult argument to
accept since it can be so easily argued against. There are obvious
examples of alleged insults to species integrity which at the
end of the day tend to boil down to gross welfare problems with
the animal or just things which are intrinsically unpalatable
to us as humansthe idea of animals with two heads or things
like that. I cannot see that those would ever be caused by either
traditional or modern genetic technology. I do not find that there
is any convincing argument that there is a special ethical problem.
What there is, I think, is an important ethical debate because
the technology is advancing rapidly and it is important that the
debate continues and accommodates the changes in the science.
916. As Dr Festing has said, the benefits of
research on genetically modified animals seem fairly clear. Do
you argue that the balance is easier to strike because the harm
or cost caused to animals might be somewhat less because you can
do more with mice and you do not have to use the higher animals?
(Dr Matfield) There are some very good, real examples
of precisely that. Polio vaccine, for example, is produced in
large batches but it is a live vaccine and occasional batches
undergo a reversion mutation such that what you think is a vaccine
would actually cause polio rather than prevent it. To guard against
this, the World Health Organisation mandates that every batch
of polio vaccine must be thoroughly tested and the only currently
accepted test is a monkey test. No one wants to use a monkey.
What scientists have done by genetic engineering is put the receptor
for the polio virus in mice. The mouse test is currently being
developed to replace the primate test, and this is a perfectly
good example of the way science can minimise any welfare effect.
917. Can we be reassured that the degree of
care which is exercised on genetically modified animals is no
less than that on other animals? Can you reassure us that they
are not treated as merely disposable objects and less important
than those which have not been modified because an impression
grows in press reports and so on that somehow they do not matter
quite so much.
(Dr Layward) I think they matter almost more than
other animals do. These animals take a long time to get the right
genetic manipulation. They are very expensive and they are treated
with kid gloves almost. In my charity in the Cystic Fibrosis Trust,
we are ensuring that enough CF mice are available for the essential
research that needs to take place. We are treating these animals
with kid gloves, I assure you.
Earl of Onslow
918. This is because they are very rare and
very expensive rather than just like the mice that run around
(Dr Matfield) This is becoming more and more accepted
now with genetically modified mice. Some of the changes you see
are rather subtle and therefore it is becoming more normal to
put the newly created mice through a battery of rather subtle
behavioural tests. Can it balance on a narrow ledge easier? Does
it hold on to a twig or a bean easier than a normal mouse? This
would pick up far more subtle welfare defects than you will find
with normal mice.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton
919. Am I right in thinking that with genetically
modified animals you could raise animals which are particularly
prone to some disease. For example, ones which bleed internally
a lot or have a lot of pain, so that the every day life of that
animal is miserable and you are creating misery from the word
go and yet that sort of animal would be useful for testing drugs
on. Is that creating animals whose lives are purgatory? It may
well have huge medical value but ethically you have to justify
that. There is an ethical process before you even conceive of
creating an animal which had a particular kind of life. Is that
(Dr Matfield) Yes, the need to ethically justify this
is exactly the same as that applied in ethically justifying the
use of any of the naturally existing strains of mice which suffer
from diseases. There are mice with muscular dystrophy which are
perfectly natural mutant mice. They had been around long before
we developed genetic engineering. The ethical principles involved
mean that the very existence of these mice is regulated and that
their birth is counted as a regulated scientific procedure with
the same level of justification required.