Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1340-1359)




  1340. What uses of animals by humans do you consider to be acceptable (for example, as pets, as farm animals, or as working animals for people with disabilities)?
  (Ms Creamer) This question leads us back to the primary purpose of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. We are a single issue group and we do not have policies on other uses of animals. This is not something where we can legitimately present to you the policies of our organisation and our supporters as a whole.

  1341. I understand that. Thank you very much because we can go straight to the next question. How many inspectors do you consider would be adequate to monitor animal procedures in the UK?
  (Mr Phillips) The simple answer is that 20 are not enough to cover 250 premises.

  1342. It is going up to 32.
  (Mr Phillips) I think 32 will not be enough to cover 250 premises. I heard at one of the sessions here, a mention of webcams monitoring laboratories to try and catch the types of abuses that were uncovered at Huntingdon Life Sciences. Clearly that would be extremely labour intensive. The more serious underlying point is the role of the inspectors who, although the perception of the public is that they are the police force for the Act, the reality is they do not go around enforcing the Act. It would be a very positive thing to have considerably more inspectors, were we able to address certain areas within the operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act itself, and make them more rigidly enforced. For example, there is the `code of practice for the housing and care of laboratory animals', which is again repeatedly presented as "the strict guidelines that laboratories must adhere to", and yet there are some guidelines (and those guidelines are very basic anyhow) which are simply ignored. For example, it says that dogs in laboratories must have, unless it is clearly inappropriate, bedding. We have never encountered any dogs with bedding in several laboratories. I have never seen pictures of bedding either in the UK. If it is always inappropriate because it would, say, meddle with the results, why is it there? That is misleading. Primates are one of the few species where there is a detailed list of requirements under the Code of Practice for what is needed for their housing and again those requirements are routinely ignored in the laboratories we have studied. Before we say that having more inspectors is a good thing, then elements of this Act need to do what they are promising they will do.

Lord Lucas

  1343. This comes back to what you are saying in question 1 and rather than pursue that one further now I would very much like to see in writing from you your proposals as to how this system would work.
  (Ms Creamer) Certainly, yes. It will be done after today.

  1344. Particularly if you could address the idea that it might not interrupt every proposal on its way through but, as you say, look at an idea and seek to change the policy for future proposals. That at least would not get in the way of this theme in the system. Looking at this question in particular, would you consider putting up individuals who are members of your Society for membership of ethical review committees?
  (Ms Creamer) That would be quite difficult, which is why we have suggested the board of assessment because in order for us to remain within our remit, and contribute, we need a vehicle for our input. It would be quite difficult for people who are committed against the use of animals in research to become in any way involved in regulating animal research, so we have to remain on the outside, but we need to find a way of contributing in such a way that we can at least ensure that there is a proper rigorous review of proposals to use animals, and suggest another source of the information required, or suggest non-animal alternatives.

  1345. But if not you, who are so interested in this subject, where can we get independent members from?
  (Dr Knight) Can I add something on how we could help with the assessment? We were going to come on to this later. I will give you a brief overview now. What we would like to see is a central body established which would promote alternatives, and although we would not be in charge of this central body perhaps the Home Office and other interested parties could be involved in it. They could become involved in the assessment process and therefore you would have a panel of experts in alternatives who could give a valid opinion on the application.


  1346. May I just say that the thrust of your argument, which you are going to elaborate, in your paper which Lord Lucas requested, seems to me to need to address two things. I would like to get some broad estimates from you as to what the costs of these would be, and secondly, the amount of delay involved because we already know that in Great Britain there is a slower accreditation of experimentation than anywhere else in the world, and if you are going to add to that you will risk shifting animal experimentation to other countries, which you may say is all very well but it would be less regulated than you have even here. Could you also address that question? You might briefly now, Ms Creamer, but it is very germane to what you are saying.
  (Ms Creamer) Briefly now, on the question of research going abroad, there is no evidence that has been presented that research has gone abroad. A lot of the complaints about the ethical review process from the people who want to use animals in research is about the process, slowing it down, and about the people who are on the committees.

  1347. With respect, I would like to know how your proposals would not add to that delay and whether they would add to costs significantly. Perhaps you could write to us because that would take some time.
  (Ms Creamer) Certainly the detail would. The way we would see it is that instead of having an additional process this would be part of the current process. All it means is that a separate assessment body is also looking at project licence applications to review them, to see whether there is another way of doing the work.

Lord Taverne

  1348. I understand your viewpoint, which is first of all that you are against the idea of animal experiments in principle and, secondly, you do not think they are necessary. We have had some evidence that the bureaucracy connected with the control of animal experiments through the Home Office inspectors does not benefit animal welfare but in some ways makes things worse because animals have to be killed who otherwise would not be killed and so on. If it could be shown that a less bureaucratic procedure actually somewhat improved animal experiments and meant fewer of them, would that be something that you would approve of? I know you are opposed to the whole thing in principle. Suppose you could show that there was a lessening of suffering by animals because one streamlined the whole bureaucratic process, would you object to that?
  (Mr Phillips) I think if fewer animals are used in the laboratory we would welcome it. However, I would say on this issue of bureaucracy that yes, that should be made as efficient possible, but the simple fact is that we have a piece of legislation which was put in place to allay public fears that animal experimenters were doing what they wanted to animals in laboratories, and that experimenters would have to justify these experiments and put them under rigorous scrutiny. If we promise that we are going to do that, put that on the face of legislation, then there is an impact. You cannot have better assessment without there being more effort put into it. However, if other bodies had input and this were relieving pressure on other areas of the Home Office, or whoever was overseeing it, then it could well streamline it. I am not sure what figures the Home Office gives, but they do say that it is 40 days for a licence. In many walks of life there is paperwork to be done and you work around that. I do not think that two, three, four or even up to six months' forward planning in order to experiment on animals is something that the public would find unacceptable.

Earl of Onslow

  1349. I want to go back to the second question I was asking because I do think it is absolutely fundamental to your case. How much unnecessary pain do you think is being caused and can be avoided or is this just a general feeling that you do not like it? What happened in 1876 and what happens now is absolutely different. Chalk and cheese are similar materials compared to the difference now. Can you give me instances of what you really do not like about it, where it is going wrong and where experiments should not happen?
  (Ms Creamer) That is a very large question. Broadly, just to set out what we know as an organisation, over the last ten years we have sent Field Officers to work inside laboratories working alongside lab animal technicians and we have filmed and photographed and we have also conducted academic research assessing the work that they observed. There are many ways in which different laboratory animals suffer apart from the experiments themselves. For example, you might say that blood sampling for a person was a minor procedure but, for something as small as a mouse, having the tip of its tail cut off or having a piece of ear taken or having a large syringe put into its abdomen is quite frightening and quite painful. We have observed the responses of the animals in that way. It is difficult to generalise across all of the species. You cannot measure the suffering across all the different species in the way that I know would be helpful to you. Laboratory animals suffer in all kinds of ways. They can be in deprived environments if they are in an isolation cage, or if they are in a metabolism cage they are deprived of all environmental enrichment. They can be deprived of the company of their cage mates. They can be overcrowded if they are smaller animals.


  1350. Ms Creamer, you are being very general here. On how many occasions have you sent in secret operatives with cameras? How many times have you not found that there was cruelty or have you always found there was cruelty? What has subsequently happened as a result of your researches?
  (Mr Phillips) You consistently find impoverished conditions. We have gone into 7 different UK laboratories under cover; and they have all been investigations where the personnel have worked there for periods of up to a year, so it is not a spot check. With primates we have found Macaque monkeys being kept in cages that wide with no furniture at all, which breaches every single Code of Practice guideline. We have found Tamarin monkeys in cages that wide by that high without even sight of each other, so that they are completely isolated from their own species.

  1351. You have done 7 investigations. Have these always involved primates or rodents?
  (Mr Phillips) No. I was going to move on to rodents, which are the most commonly used laboratory species. We find they are shown the least concern in laboratories. You will have a room with, say, hundreds upon hundreds of mice or rats in cages about that big. They will often fight resulting in severe injuries. We have presented the Home Office with photographs of mice with their feet absolutely chewed away by cage mates. These animals are mutilated routinely just for identification with holes punched in their ears and toes cut off. The caging is generally designed for convenience so it is very hard for technicians to spot injuries because sometimes the cages are opaque sided, so very severe injuries can go unnoticed for days. Rodents are extremely disposable. We have collected statistics, and these are backed up by laboratories like Porton Down who produce their own statistics, that for every rodent used in an experiment two are killed because they are surplus to requirements, so animals are having their necks broken and being gassed almost daily in many animal laboratories. With genetic modification those numbers are going up even higher. You have many factors in the mere husbandry, before large electrodes are put in heads, before animals are given arthritis-type conditions which stop them even moving about properly. Before those things happen they are often having a generally miserable existence.

Baroness Warnock

  1352. I am a bit unclear whether you think that these are instances of cruelty, in other words practices which are in breach of the Act, or are in breach of the guidelines, or whether you think that any animals kept in a laboratory or in the conditions which you describe would be the victims of cruelty. The word "cruelty" is slightly confusing.
  (Mr Phillips) I would say they are certainly suffering, and I am not avoiding your question; we will move on to that. In terms of whether they are breaches of the guidelines, with the primates we have seen, with the dogs that we have seen, they are clearly not adhering to the guidelines. With the rodents there are so few guidelines that they . . . .

  1353. If I may interrupt, what you are advocating at this point of the argument is that the guidelines should be better drawn and more strictly observed?
  (Mr Phillips) I think that they should be more detailed and they should be rigid, yes. I think they should be strictly adhered to. That would make for common sense in terms of research data, in terms of creating some sort of uniformity between these places. Merely to reduce the idea within laboratories that these animals are so very disposable, particularly the less expensive animals, would be a good thing. In terms of cruelty, there are instances of animal technicians being frivolous and, when they are trying to kill mice, actually missing the tables and dropping them and things like that. With regard to whether they are sadistically torturing the animals, we have not encountered that type of thing, so not wanton cruelty. I think the system is cruel rather than these people being wantonly cruel. We have filmed arthritis experiments, severe procedures where the legs of rodents, which would normally be extremely thin, as you can imagine, are swollen to make them five or six times their normal size and you can see that these animals are in great pain.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

  1354. Just listening to you, I wonder if you could differentiate between what one might call statutory experiments, namely those that have to be done in order to get projects registered by the Food and Drug Administration or whatever it is in this country, a whole range of things that have to go through a lot of standard requirements for testing (they call them toxicity but it is more than just that) and basic biological research, advancing knowledge about the mammalian body and how it responds. Do you discriminate between those or do you lump them all together as experiments which should not be done?
  (Ms Creamer) We recognise the differences between all the different uses of animals and different experiments. We are opposed to all of them. What we feel is that as a practical way forward, because this has been debated for so long, certainly the standard toxicity, safety testing, those kinds of regulatory tests are easier to replace because there are so many tests and alternatives coming on line now and also being used now. In a way, in terms of getting rid of animal experimentation, that body is something where you can lay down some new tests and everyone can adopt that particular test. When it comes to basic research where there is such a wide range of different things that people are doing: novel techniques, new uses for old techniques, that kind of thing, that is where the judgement about whether an animal experiment or product licence should be granted needs to be looked at more closely because it is not so easy to find a solution. There is more opportunity for suffering because there are more unusual things being done. As well as a local review process you need an international review process which is what a central process would give you.

  1355. But the use of alternative replacements is growing all the time and many statutory requirements now are done in vitro and not on whole animals, and many people would choose to do that because it is a lot cheaper. Animals are expensive.
  (Mr Phillips) In terms of how we would approach it, a logical approach for if we want to dismantle and one day live without animal experimentation is to move on two key areas first: the experiments that cause the most severe suffering, the experiments which are clearly the least scientifically justified.

  1356. Would you just give us an idea of experiments that are not scientifically justified, to use your words?
  (Dr Knight) Just going back to the testing of the . . . .

  1357. No, no. If you do not mind, you said that you want to get rid of experiments that are not scientifically justified and I just wonder if you have in your mind some of those and you could give us examples of one or two.
  (Mr Phillips) There are certain clear areas developed recently in cancer research, for example, where the traditional method has been to grow tumours and implant cancerous material under the flanks of nude mice. There have been some huge breakthroughs, some of which we have been funding, in terms of using spheroid cells, growing spheroids of cells in culture and being able to test things like angiogenesis absolutely in culture. That is a clear example where you have got many researchers all over the world examining a certain technique in animals and many others, possibly more, getting the same type of data using human cells in culture. I am probably better writing it up and submitting it.

Earl of Onslow

  1358. I was very interested in what you were saying about this wretched rat that had a bad leg because it has got arthritis. We know that arthritis is chillingly painful to human beings who get it and it is extremely difficult to treat. Therefore, unless you had an alternative it seems that there is no way of doing it other than by imposing this burden on rats. You produce that, and obviously I quite accept that this is one of the very few experiments that are regarded as having a high pain threshold. There are two or three per cent, I am not sure. We do know because somebody has told us, that there are these very low numbers. The vast majority are in the medium or low pain threshold area. I find it very hard to say that I would forgo the benefit of an anti-arthritis drug in return for a rat not having a bad leg. I would frankly rather the rat had a bad leg than my grandmother (who is dead) had crippling arthritis.
  (Dr Knight) There are papers published where a study on in vitro samples of human tissue, which surround the joints, has shown that gene therapy can be activated, so there are methods other than using rats.

  1359. So what you are saying—and is this an answer to Lord Soulsby's question—is that in your view that is an unnecessary and cruel experiment and should not take place because there is a definitive and definite alternative?
  (Dr Knight) Yes, and that will be the case in many experiments but it is making the potential vivisectionists aware of this which is where the problem is. That is why we would advocate that there is a central board established which offers expertise on alternatives to educate people.

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