Examination of Witness (Questions 1365-1379)|
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2002
1365. Good afternoon, Mr Ward. Thank you for
coming to see us. Would you please give us a general introduction
about yourself and Advocates for Animals?
(Mr Ward) I certainly will, my Lord Chairman.
My name is Les Ward. I am the Director of Advocates for Animals,
which is an organisation concerned in all areas of animals use,
not just animal experimentation but also farming issues, blood
sports, killing of whales and seals, companion animals. Right
across the board Advocates for Animals has an interest in the
way animals are used and treated.
1366. The first question is similar to the one
we asked the previous witnesses. What ethical principles should
govern the treatment of animals? Are welfare considerations sufficient
or should animals be accorded rights?
(Mr Ward) I will try and avoid duplicating what the
NAVS have said to try and give a different perspective from me.
Since we are dealing with animal experiments I would put it this
way. I believe it is wrong to allow people to suffer and die if
that suffering, pain and death can be prevented or alleviated
say through drugs, vaccination or surgery. However, I also believe
it is wrong if the route to that prevention, as we push back the
frontiers of science, involves the deliberate infliction of pain,
suffering and death on laboratory animals, and I consider that
to be ethically and morally unacceptable. In regard to animal
rights, I think there is a lot of confusion over animal rights
and I think some of it is quite deliberate. As far as I know,
no one in the animal rights movement is claiming that animals
have the same rights as human beings because clearly they do not.
Animals cannot vote, for example, but what people are looking
for is the same rights regarding pain and suffering, ie, if you
would not inflict that pain and suffering on a human being you
should not inflict that pain and suffering deliberately on a healthy
animal. To conclude, as soon as an animal enters a laboratory
anyway it loses all rights whatsoever and welfare has to take
over and take its place in regard to animal rights, ie, the right
to freedom from pain and suffering, because once it enters that
laboratory it will be subjected to pain and suffering.
1367. Do you have the same objections for essentially
a veterinary experiment to develop compounds which would improve
the life generally of, say, cattle or sheep but which would have
no spin-off effect for humans?
(Mr Ward) I was at a meeting last night where I was
handed the evidence given to this committee by another organisation.
I have to say when I read it last night I would probably concur
with the way in which they put it. While you could use 100 cows,
say, to save the lives of maybe 1,800 cows, that is okay for the
1,800 cows. The other cows that were used to help these 1,800
cows lost their lives, so for me morally and ethically it is unacceptable
to take the lives of perfectly healthy animals just to achieve
benefit for others, but I am realistic and Advocates for Animals
are realistic with regard to the fact that we are now involved,
as the NAVS have touched on, in the fact that animal experiments
are a fact of life and therefore we have to work around that.
I was interested as well in the cruelty question raised with NAVS.
I do not know if this Committee is aware that some years ago in
Scotland a senior scientist was convicted of cruelty to animals
because he carried out an experiment on an animal for which he
did not have a licence and the judge, in summing up, said that
this person was guilty of torturing, terrifying and cruelly treating
a laboratory animal. He was prosecuted under the 1912 Protection
of Animals Act which is the cruelty Act in Scotland. To be provocative,
I think it is fair to say that most scientists in the UK, were
they not to have the protection of the 1986 Act, would find themselves
in a court of law for cruelty to animals. They are protected by
the Act and the same Act that is there supposedly to protect animals.
1368. Do you believe the 1986 Act therefore
has improved the lot of animals?
(Mr Ward) Advocates for Animals was formerly known
as the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection. We
were one of the few anti-vivisection groups through our involvement
with the committee for the reform of animal experimentation that
worked with the British Veterinary Association and frame in supporting
this law. The Government was going to regulate and therefore we
felt we had to be in there; otherwise we thought the scientific
community and others like the RDS would weaken what the Conservative
Government at that time were seeking. Compared to a number of
laws throughout the world it is probably one of the better laws,
but I would concur with what the NAVS has said. It would seem
that every time an investigator from an anti-vivisection organisation
enters a laboratory something is discovered. Is that the tip of
an iceberg or just isolated incidents? As you know, this law is
based on trust. It does not matter how many inspectors you have.
It is like any law. In a slaughterhouse if there are those who
are prepared to abuse the law they will and unless you get an
inspector in every single laboratory every day of the year there
will be someone there, I believe, abusing animals, and the only
way to prevent this is for the scientific community to weed those
Earl of Onslow
1369. I still have this difficulty in that ideally
I think, like you, I would rather there was not animal experimentation
because it breeds lots of white mice and white rats, none of it
seeming to be of benefit other than in the scientific world. Can
you say to me definitely that if it is a question between a life-saving
drug which is discovered through animal experimentation and no
animal experimentation, you would actually rather human beings
suffer, because that is in many cases the choice?
(Mr Ward) Can I respond in a personal way? My wife
has an incurable form of cancer. I am grateful for the animal
experiments that may have helped Erika so far. It does not stop
me believing that animal experimentation is wrong. Erika is currently
going through a clinical trial in which no doubt animals have
played a part, but the fact is that there still remains no cure
for her particular cancer through animal tests whatsoever. Despite
millions of animals losing their lives my belief, to answer your
point more directly, is that, as we stand at the moment, realistically
there is no way animal experimentation will end overnight. I genuinely
believe the alternatives to end all animal experiments are not
there. However, I also genuinely believe there are a number of
replacement techniques that could certainly replace animals if
only the will and the funding was there.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
1370. You rather gave the impression in a previous
answer that it was only the Home Office inspector that was responsible
for assuring good care and welfare of animals. Is that so?
(Mr Ward) No. Clearly within the laboratory there
is the named care person, there is a named veterinary surgeon;
there is also the ethical committee.
1371. If I can just add to that list if I may,
there also is the research worker and the animal care assistant,
all of whom, I would submit to you, do have an interest in attending
to good health and welfare of their animals. If you are an experimenter
healthy animals under good welfare are better animals to use than
those that are abused. I do not know how you would respond to
(Mr Ward) Up to a year or so ago I was a member of
the Animal Procedures Committee and as a member of the APC I went
round a number of laboratories. There is no doubt that within
laboratories there are individuals who really genuinely care for
the animals under their care and they will do what they can under
the system to look after those animals. Unfortunately, though,
as you know in the recent case with Huntingdon Life Sciences where
It's a Dog's Life, the Channel 4 programme, went in there,
despite these people being around there was a culture there that
resulted in beagle dogs being abused in the most appalling way
and individuals were taken to court for that and that is what
has really brought the animal rights movement down on Huntingdon
Life Sciences. Yes, there are people in there who are doing as
you suggest, but I come back to the point: unfortunately, how
can we, how can the public, be content when every time an anti-vivisection
organisation gets someone into a laboratory there is abuse of
laboratory animals found. Somehow or other we have to work together,
the scientific community and the anti-vivisection community, to
reassure the public over what is done to animals.
1372. In trying to balance out those who would
use good judgement and attend to animal welfare and not abuse
them and those who would abuse them, can you give a balance?
(Mr Ward) I think, like the extremists that are threatening
human life, planting fire bombs, if they are guilty of that, going
to people's properties and intimidating them, those individuals
are in the minority. Similarly, I would say that those who do
those types of things in laboratories are in the minority, but
it is up to those in laboratories to weed out those types of people
because the inspectorate will not be able to.
1373. I think one would agree with you that
where one sees abuse then within that laboratory one tries to
(Mr Ward) Absolutely.
Baroness Richardson of Calow
1374. It is possible within the human animal
kingdom for a person to make an informed choice to surrender some
of their well-being in order to benefit others. I can think of
many examples of that. Why then is it considered so wrong for
human beings, with their intelligence and creative minds, to judge
that the cost/benefit of an experiment on an animal would result
in a better outcome for many other people?
(Mr Ward) I think that is presuming that all the experiments
that are carried out in the UK are there for the betterment of
human beings and I would say that quite a substantial amount are
not there at all for the betterment of human beings. Fundamental
research, for example, is often research without a purpose other
than in pursuit of questionable knowledge, the use of animals
in the testing of household products which has already been touched
on, the warfare experiments that go on with germ and chemical
warfare agents and so on and so forth. I think that in animal
experiments the animals are unable to speak for themselves and
are unable to give that authority. I suppose we, as human beings,
coming from the organisation that I represent, Advocates for Animals,
which speaks on behalf of another, do not believe that a laboratory
animal would give up its life in order for there to be more household
products etc. I do not think an animal should be expected to give
up its life if all we are doing constantly is using animals without
really trying very, very hard to replace their use. I genuinely
believe that people are not putting every effort they can into
replacing animal experiments. Until such time as that happens
there will always be organisations like mine who believe that
animals should not be used.
1375. That takes us on to the next question.
What uses of animals do you consider to be acceptable, for example
as pets, as farm animals, or as working animals for people with
(Mr Ward) As you know, we cover the whole range of
issues. I suppose as long as the guide dogs for the blind are
treated well and trained well we would have no problem with that.
We would have problems with Capuchin monkeys that are used to
help paraplegic people where the animals have all their teeth
removed and these animals take electric shocks during training,
we would be against that.
1376. It is a matter of degree in a way?
(Mr Ward) Absolutely. Again, in the real world there
is no way that I, although vegetarian myself, believe that people
are going to stop eating meat. However if we, as an organisation,
can secure in the UK a farming system where an animal is born
into a humane system, it goes through to a humane marketplace
and has a humane death then we would have achieved a fantastic
amount. If we are talking about animal experiments, I do not know
if you want me to keep on going?
Chairman: No, that is all right, thank you.
Earl of Onslow
1377. So you do not object to my four nice Welsh
mountain ponies pulling a cart, stuffed with expensive food, looked
after by a vet who buys a new Mercedes virtually every day of
(Mr Ward) I have seen some people with horses and
carts where they trot them down the road and I would have some
real concerns as to whether or not the pony was being looked after
properly. If you do not put your pony at pace down a road and
you look after its welfare I would have no problem with you at
1378. That does not invite a reply. How could
the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act be improved? How could
the regulation and inspection of procedures under the Act be improved?
(Mr Ward) I think the NAVS should take credit for
this because I remember being on the APC when the NAVS were trying
very hard for freedom of information and more openness. I think
they have now brought about a state of mind and thinking where,
in fact, that has come about. I would certainly support them in
believing that there has to be more openness now in the project
licensing system. It is clear that the public cannot be calmed
over what is going on within laboratories over the secrecy side
of it. I agree with them when they say that six months is not
too long, but I have to say I disagree with certain scientific
groups who say that science has been stifled in this country and
that project licences are taking a considerable amount of time.
In my knowledge of the matter as a former member of the APC that
does not seem to me to be the case. I think that these project
licences, with the names of the facilities and the research teams
removed, should go on to a website, for example, for groups like
the NAVS with their expertise, the BUAV, FRAME, Dr Hadwen Trust,
to be given an opportunity to see whether or not there are alternatives
available to them.
1379. Could I give you one example where there
seems to be an inordinate delay, namely the visiting international
researcher of standing who comes over to participate in an experiment
but frequently his licence does not arrive until he or she is
on the point of departure. Is there not a way of making it more
flexible so that distinguished scientists could be given project
licences to participate, personal licences?
(Mr Ward) I do not believe that because they are distinguished
scientists, that should enable them to avoid them coming under
the jurisdiction of the law. If a senior scientist is planning
to come over to the UK to do some work the senior scientist must
have individuals around him who should prepare for his visit to
arrive in the UK. I believe there are senior scientists who have
come into the UK whose grasp of the English language is not very
good. How on earth can a senior scientist who has not got a grasp
of the English language understand the law of this country, the
codes, the guidelines, and what is expected? What we are dealing
with here is lives of animals. I do not believe that we can muck
around in any way with the lives of animals. It is not a God given
right for scientists to experiment on animals, they are being
given a responsibility to do so.