Official report reveals horrific suffering at UK lab

Posted on the 10th December 2014

A report released by the government department responsible for inspecting animal laboratories has revealed that more than 1,000 animals died in appalling conditions at a single UK establishment after a ventilation system failed. In another disturbing incident at the same laboratory, 68 genetically modified (GM) mouse pups are thought to have been cannibalised by their mothers.

During a period of exceptionally hot weather, the ventilation system failed in a building where rats and mice were being held. The problem was left unresolved for a prolonged period and at least 1,132 rats and mice are known to have died as a result. On the day the incident was discovered and during the three days that followed, 787 animals died, and another 345 had to be killed because they were suffering so much. The laboratory is not named in the report, but it is thought to belong to a private company.

Proponents of vivisection frequently argue that the UKā€™s system for regulating animal experiments is amongst the strictest in the world. Yet the way this appalling incident was dealt with shows that vivisectors are exempt from any significant punishment. Despite the laboratory clearly breaching the law that regulates vivisection in the UK, it simply received a ā€˜written reprimandā€™ and had conditions added to its licence that required action to be taken to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future. This is hardly surprising, since no one has ever been prosecuted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act.

Sadly, the shocking neglect of these rats and mice is certainly not an isolated incident. The more comprehensive annual report of the Home Office unit that inspects animal laboratories makes for extremely disturbing reading. As well as making a brief mention of the ventilation system failure, the annual report states that animals were found who had chewed off their feet or toes, others were starved and deprived of water, and a lab worker had been decapitating animals without authorisation. Of course, these official reports detail only the incidents that are self-reported or detected by inspections. Investigations by animal protection groups suggest that these are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Alongside its annual report, the government has agreed to start publishing details of investigations carried out at individual labs. The report on the ventilation system failure and macabre deaths of the GM mouse pups was published as part of this scheme. While Animal Aid welcomes any move to improve transparency and increase public awareness of the suffering caused by vivisection, it is not enough to report on incidents that have already happened. We have long been calling for the release, in anonymised form, of proposals to carry out animal experiments. This is so that experts can scrutinise the proposals, draw attention to the scientific flaws and suggest non-animal methods that could be used instead.

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