Animal Aid

MORAL VICTORY! The inspector's report

Posted 1 November 2003
Protestors in Cambridge

John Prescott has arrogantly dismissed the findings of his own department's public inquiry and given the go-ahead for the Cambridge primate centre. However, the inspector's final report was a triumph for all those opposed to these pitiless and unscientific experiments. The inspector's conclusions and full report are available here in PDF format - selected extracts follow below.

  • ...Cambridge University (CU) chose not to call any technical witness involved directly in the research projects or anyone benefiting directly from them.

  • ...If the research on non-human primates at CU, or any animal research at any institution, has led to successful clinical trials on humans or the establishment of other medical/clinical procedures etc, then it should have been possible to 'parade' the recipients of the research information before the inquiry. As the Coalition proposed, they could have supported the 'national interest/need' argument and, not being directly involved in animal research themselves, would not have been placing themselves at risk. Nothing akin to this was attempted.

  • ...It was as if CU felt there is no need to demonstrate the scientific/medical worth of the research carried on at the non-human primate centre. Some clearly felt this to be an arrogant and high-handed approach to the public inquiry and to the openness in which such proceedings should take place.

  • ...The technical information that was presented to the inquiry could best be described as peripheral skirmishing, without CU making any real attempt to secure an objective conclusion on or specific details about what is proposed. As it was, a considerable amount of written evidence was placed before the inquiry by CU and objectors, but those actually and specifically qualified in non-human primate research into neurological illness or conditions and had produced the papers on the topic were not able to be tested by questioning. Each paper or article submitted was almost immediately rebutted by another, arguably of equal standing.

  • ...On the basis of the technical input, therefore, I could not conclude that need in the national interest is demonstrated insofar as this pertains to the scientific/medical research and procedures undertaken by the University.

  • ...Perhaps of more relevance, CU did not counter by claiming that, even in the neurological field, the success of clinical trials on humans following testing on non-human primates was of a higher order.

  • ...In addition, I am mindful that when CU was asked about the consequences of their appeal being dismissed, they responded by saying that this would be the end of the matter and such a research establishment would not be pursued. I did not find this response to be consistent with national need or interest.

  • ...I have looked carefully at the letter from the Medical Research Council (MRC). I would have liked to ask more questions, but once again, the author of the letter was more concerned with protecting anonymity than appearing at the inquiry to support the submissions.

  • ...In conclusion, there are several arguments that could be seen in favour of this project. However, whether taking the points individually or cumulatively, I have not seen them as being so compelling as to justify this particular project as one in the national interest.

  • ...In fact, if one accepts the premise that wherever possible research should not involve animals, it would be a stronger argument to say that it is nationally important to keep together and service the excellent and acknowledged research expertise in Cambridge to catch up on alternative forms of research to that employing animals.

  • ...Although CU submit the views of the scientific bodies as strongly in favour of animal research, there is little to say this mirrors the public view.

  • ...In the first place, the public resents clearly the lack of open debate on the issue of the scientific/medial provenance of the research. They see the University's lack of engagement on this matter as dismissive of their strongly held views.

  • ...However, unlike the University who believe that today's objections will evaporate, I share the view expressed by the Police that the objections to something as emotive and sensitive as research on non-human primates will not disappear.

  • ...I firmly believe that the public will continue to agitate vociferously and 'forcibly' against the use of non-human primates.

  • ...As is pointed out, Government 'policy' on such matters as foxhunting, the export of live animals, the use of animals in testing cosmetics and of the great apes in experimentation/research etc, often lags behind the public view.

  • ...Insofar as monitoring the living and social conditions of animals involved in the research... There is a belief that the Home Office Inspectors involved have become desensitised over time and this is why they have 'missed' the 'failings' alleged by BUAV and others.

  • ...Next, it is submitted that the animals would be kept in much better conditions than at present. One would hope this would be the case, but there can be no guarantee through the planning system that anything other than the legal minimum would be provided. Even then, I am not sure why this planning permission is necessary to achieve these 'higher standards'. If this is felt to be important than I was presented with no evidence to suggest this could not be achieved today at the disparate sites.

  • ...those objecting see a system, which is arguably self-perpetuating by way of peer review involving many also involved in similar research. As for licensing/grant applications, while many overseeing this process are not directly involved in animal research today, the scrutiny process is not seen as transparent. From the lack of information and evidence placed before me, I see no reason to disagree.

  • ...No central University body or public or private industrial park is prepared to accept the proposed non-human primate research centre within its midst.

  • ...Despite CU dismissing the prospect of viral leakage, it is worth noting the Oxford Professor who cites the closure of part of a building in Oxford University as a direct result of viral escape.

  • ...Having heard CU's submissions I confess to being perplexed. In one breath they promote the Cambridge phenomena and the national importance of this specific enterprise. Next they claim that there is little or no likelihood that demonstrations will continue once the appeal decision has been issued. Then, despite these two contentions, they are not prepared to accommodate the project on one of the identified University sites. Objectors could be forgiven for viewing this as a most cynical form of 'nimbyism'.

  • I recommend that this appeal be dismissed.

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