Animal Aid

Home Office wins Mad Science Award

Posted 15 November 2007

Each year, Animal Aid presents 'Mad Science' awards to researchers who have carried out particularly pointless and cruel experiments on animals. Former themes have included 'safety' tests, equine research, experiments on non-human primates and tests using rats. Award recipients have worked at British universities, teaching hospitals and commercial drug companies.

This year, however, there is only one award - and it goes to the Home Office (HO). This is the government department charged with approving and overseeing all of the animal research and testing conducted in this country, and which claims that it strictly regulates all such 'procedures'.

A recent judicial review brought by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) against the HO proved that it acted unlawfully by underplaying the suffering experienced by monkeys subjected to brain research at Cambridge University. The HO had classified the experiments as being of 'moderate' rather than 'substantial' severity, even though the marmosets had the top of their heads removed to induce stroke; suffered bleeding head wounds, fits, vomiting and whole body tremors after surgery; were shut in tiny boxes, administered potent stimulant drugs, and had food and water withheld to control their behaviour.

The HO also earns its Mad Science Award for failing to meet revised Council of Europe welfare guidelines (1) - despite routinely claiming that standards in British laboratories are the best in the world. Home Office advice on minimum pen sizes for some primates was eight times smaller than the new recommendations.

Guinea pigs, gerbils and rabbits should all be provided with more than double the space currently recommended by the HO, and enclosures for pairs of cats should be almost seven times wider and four times higher. The Home Office has not made compliance with the new guidelines mandatory for UK laboratories and there is, consequently, no penalty for non-compliance.

Our 2007 Mad Science dossier includes evidence of other systemic Home Office failures, as well as describing 10 typically offensive experiments that were recently approved by the HO Inspectorate. The experiments include: monkeys being brain damaged and frightened with toy snakes; rabbits being bled to death to demonstrate the health benefits of green tea; pregnant horses deliberately under-fed; and pregnant rats fed on a diet of jam doughnuts, marshmallows and other junk foods.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

'There is an overwhelming moral and scientific case against animal experiments in that such "procedures" are cruel and produce data that cannot be reliably applied to people. But given that such experiments do take place, the Home Office has for too many years made bogus claims about the unrivalled excellence of the regime it oversees. In truth, the Home Office sanctions a huge number of vicious and pointless experiments, while seeking to conceal the extent of animal suffering for which it is responsible. It richly deserves the 2007 Animal Aid Mad Science Award.'

Notes to Editors:

  • More information from Andrew Tyler: 01732 364 546
  • Animal Aid’s 2007 Mad Science Awards report can be viewed here or is available, on request, from the Tonbridge office.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews.

(1) Revised Appendix A to the Council of Europe Convention ETS 123: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/PDF/123-Arev.pdf

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