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Animal Aid response to Nuffield Council on Bioethics report, The Ethics of Research Involving Animals
Posted 25 May 2005
The Nuffield Council's report into the ethics of using animals in medical research represents an important missed opportunity to address the real issues of concern over animal experimentation.
The report supports the Three Rs - Refinement, Reduction and Replacement - whose declared intention is to minimise animal suffering. While Animal Aid welcomes the report's emphasis on replacement, the Three Rs concept is fundamentally flawed and already out-of-date. The only alternative to bad science - animal based research - is good science: human based research.
Using fewer animals in less cruel experiments would clearly be advantageous but this would not overcome the problem that the data provided will not be relevant to people, making it unethical to perform them from the start. Adverse drug reactions are the fourth biggest killer in the UK today, after heart disease, cancer and stroke. This is despite the animal testing regime that exists supposedly to safeguard human health.
The report says that more should be done to improve the quality of the debate about animal research. Animal Aid welcomes this call, but notes that it flies in the face of a series of court injunctions recently granted to, for example, Oxford University. The purpose of these draconian court orders is to clamp down on the dissemination of key information relating to animal experiments.
The Nuffield authors base their opinions and recommendations on the incorrect assumption that animal experimentation benefits human health. Yet the Home Office, by its own admission, has never commissioned a study into its efficacy. Nor has there been a scientific assessment of the booming number of experiments using purpose-bred genetically manipulated animals.
In dealing with the wildly over-exaggerated phenomenon of animal rights 'extremism', the report fails to acknowledge the determined patience, and entirely legal and peaceful activities, of the vast majority of anti-vivisection campaigners. Animal Aid urges the government, the pharmaceutical industry and the pro-animal research lobby to stop crying foul about animal rights campaigners without a cause. A recent scientific debate at Oxford University, for example, organised by a group opposed to animal experiments, was deliberately misrepresented in sections of the press as being characterised by hostile and abusive behaviour by 'hundreds' of vivisection opponents. In fact, these allegations were subsequently demonstrated to be entirely false, on the basis of video footage of the event and further confirmation from Tony Benn MP, who chaired the peaceful meeting.
Animal Aid calls for an independent and transparent public inquiry into the efficacy of animal experiments.
Notes to Editors
- Download a copy of Animal Aid's comprehensive overview of the moral and scientific arguments against animal experiments, Bad Ethics, Bad Science.
- Each year in the UK, approaching 3 million animals are used in experiments. Despite government pledges to reduce the total number of animals used, the figure is actually going up. From 2002 to 2003 (the latest figures available), there was a 2.4% rise in number of animals used, equating to 66,000 animals.
- In March 2004, the government itself acknowledged, in a parliamentary answer, that it 'has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments' - nor has it any plans to do so.
- A survey of GPs, published in August 2004, revealed that 80 per cent mistrust animal experiments.
- André Menache, scientific consultant to Animal Aid, is available for interview. Please telephone Claudia Tarry 01732 364546 ext 228 to arrange.
- ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.