Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1365-1379)




  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 people out.

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 that.
  (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 stop it.
  (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 disabilities?
  (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 the week?
  (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 all.


  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.

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