Government accused of failing to regulate animal research

Posted on the 11th January 2006

The Home office is this week accused by Animal Aid of operating a 'permissive regime that allows an unacceptable degree of self-regulation by animal researchers who are sanctioned, literally, to maim, poison and kill'.

The accusation comes as the national campaign group publishes a dossier of painful and gruesome animal experiments that were conducted recently in British laboratories. The revelations, says Animal Aid, demonstrate that the HO is failing in its statutory duty to regulate the activities of animal researchers. Drawn from the researchers’ own accounts published in scientific journals, the dossier describes how dogs, cats, rats and even chickens and ferrets were subjected to a range of torments, including injury to their spinal nerves, having their skulls opened, their livers damaged and being drained of blood. Genetically modified mice were spun around, burnt and nerve damaged. All the experiments were conducted by university researchers and were, therefore, funded by taxpayers.

The seven research teams responsible – based in London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Oxford – have each been given an Animal Aid Mad Science Award (AAMSA). A special AAMSA has also been awarded to the Institute for Cardiovascular Research at the School of Medicine, University of Leeds. (See note 4) This was for 16 years of ‘curiosity-driven’ heart experiments involving around 100 dogs and some 25 inter-connected studies. The enterprise was funded, in large part, by the British Heart Foundation.

The factor common to all the experiments highlighted by Animal Aid – aside from the animals’ suffering – is the inability of the researchers involved to demonstrate that their experiments were likely to yield anything useful to human medicine. Yet all the projects – before gaining government approval – passed the Home Office’s so-called cost/benefit assessment, whereby the suffering of the animals was said to be outweighed by the likely medical gains.

Said Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘The majority of experiments conducted in this country receive no proper advance assessment but are given approval on the nod by a Home Office Inspectorate that is woefully under-resourced. There are simply not enough expert staff to read and properly assess the huge number of applications that come in from the thousands of licensed animal researchers. (See note 1, 2) The result is the kind of ugly and unwarranted cruelty we have highlighted in our new report.’

View Mad Science Awards 2005

More information and interviews

  • To arrange an interview with Animal Aid’s Scientific Consultant, Andre Menache, please call 01732 364546, ext 33 or email
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

Notes to Editors

  • The total number of Inspectors in 2004 was 30. In addition to their other office duties, they were responsible for carrying out inspections in 227 designated establishments, many of which also operated as breeding and/or supplying facilities.
  • There were 14,113 active licences registered at the end of 2004. This represented the number of new or ongoing sets of animal experiments.
  • The total number of scientific procedures carried out in 2004 was 2.8 million. Only 13 cases of serious animal welfare infringements were dealt with in 2004. Of these, just four were discovered and reported by the Home Office Inspectorate. There were no licence revocations or any prosecutions.
  • Following is a summary of the award winners for 2005:
    • University of Sheffield – tongue nerve damage in cats and ferrets
    • University College London – GM animals spun around, burnt and nerve-damaged
    • University of Liverpool – liver damage tests in dogs and rats
    • Roslin Institute, Edinburgh – chickens in arthritis drug tests
    • University of London – rats ‘bled dry’ in resuscitation tests
    • London Institute of Neurology – cats’ skulls opened for migraine research
    • University of Oxford – dogs subjected to spinal nerve torment
    • University of Leeds – ‘special award’ for 16 years of curiosity-driven heart experiments on dogs

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