Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1340-1359)|
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2002
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
(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
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 sayingand is this
an answer to Lord Soulsby's questionis 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.