Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Britain’s new law on animal experiments

Posted: 2 January 2013. Updated: 7 January 2013


After a decade long battle in Europe to secure progress AND to prevent existing protection being dismantled, we are now close to seeing EU Directive 2010/63 adopted into UK law. The first overhaul of this legislation in 26 years.

The draft legislation to amend and update the current Animals in Scientific Procedures Act (ASPA) 1986 has been published. The Government is using its powers under the European Communities Act to introduce legislation via a ministerial ‘statutory instrument’, which means no public or parliamentary debate – just a simple yes/no vote.

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It also means that the new law cannot go beyond what is outlined in the EU Directive – Article 2 of the Directive enables member states to introduce stricter measures but the Government would require separate legislation for this. Unfortunately, the Directive inevitably lacks detail, leaving this up to individual member states. The Directive clearly intends to drive forward the implementation of alternatives but there is little detail on how this will be achieved, which weakens the intent. Thematic review (where specific animal experiments are reviewed and either abandoned or replaced with new techniques) is called for, but it is not outlined how this would work. So this new legislation will consist of just the basics of the new Directive.

NAVS has kept up the pressure in meetings with the minister and Home Office officials; submitting reports in response to expert and public consultations; briefing MPs.

The new regulations were laid on 29th October and will pass through committees and both the House of Lords and the Commons, before being signed off in early December.

The Guidance document, detailing the day to day application of the law, will continue to be worked on until early next year.

NAVS will continue to push for our key demands, such as alternative methods to animal use and ensuring that UK standards and controls are not actually eroded.

Disappointingly, the Home Office indicated that the “secrecy clause”, Section 24 of ASPA will remain but promises this will be addressed in 2013. NAVS has campaigned for two decades to have this secrecy section repealed.

The House of Lords and the Animal Procedures Committee have also spoken out against Section 24, described as “obsolete” in the presence of the current Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The annual reports on the use of genetically modified animals will apparently be separate from the statistics on genetically “normal” animals. This may provide more clarity on the use of these animals, which now account for over half of the animals used in scientific procedures, but it remains to be seen how this will, in practice, affect the overall reporting on animal use.

We were also told that, in January 2013, a meeting of European Union Member State representatives will discuss the standards of laboratory animal suppliers outside the EU.

Although some Member States are proposing EU legislation which would set standards for foreign suppliers, the Home Office has indicated that suppliers to the UK would welcome us keeping our current system.

The NAVS investigation of Vietnamese monkey supplier Nafovanny showed the failure of current Home Office guidelines to protect animals from the most atrocious conditions. Home Office officials were, apparently, misled over which cages of animals they needed to inspect.

Home Office consultations

NAVS has sent in detailed submissions to each Government consultation and pressed hard for animals at each stage.

Codes of Practice covering animal care and accommodation:
We showed how the current UK cage sizes (which are larger than those allowed in the new Directive), are still not sufficient to allow normal behaviour in the animals. The Home Office subsequently agreed that the UK will not reduce minimum cage sizes.

Conflict of interest:
NAVS argued that the Named Veterinary Surgeon and the Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer do not have a financial or other interest in the establishment in which they work.

Cumulative severity:
For primates used in long term experiments, we argued that the entire life experience and suffering should be taken into consideration – from the removal of the individual from its family group, handling, confinement, procedures, through to death.

European Commission

We also contributed to public and expert consultatons from the European Commission:

Non-human primates (NHPs)
For the proposed restrictions on primate use, we advised on defining the phrase “debilitating or potentially life-threatening clinical conditions in human beings”; species differences; use of endangered species and great apes.

Retrospective severity
Reviews of the severity of procedures carried out to produce genetically modified animals –we highlighted the suffering caused by genetic modification; huge numbers of ‘surplus’ animals killed; harm caused to animals by the removal of tissue used for DNA analysis.

Education and training
Proposals were made on the training of those working with animals in laboratories.

Non-technical summaries
(key to public access to information)
These summaries are required under article 43 of the EU Directive to promote transparency on the use of animals in research. We highlighted the problems with the current voluntary “abstracts”, published by the Home Office. We proposed more information for members of the public and other interested parties.

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