Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1360-1364)



Baroness Richardson of Calow

  1360. This is an observation really that, following the line of your argument, when you talk about cruelty the primary act of cruelty is for these animals to be born in the first place.
  (Ms Creamer) Certainly in that we do not think they should be used in research, yes. There is not a way of using animals in laboratory research where they are not going to suffer in some way either by neglect or by a technician not understanding . . . .

  1361. In fact, all the arguments that you have adduced from the fact that animals are ill-used in the laboratory pale into significance against the fact that they are used at all.
  (Mr Phillips) We do stress that we are opposed to all animal experimentation. What we are trying to clarify is that there is a level of suffering at every stage of these animals' lives and I think you can quantify suffering. I do not think there is any doubt that for those animals which are just living in those cages and then are gassed that might be a terrible existence but that goes up a few levels of suffering when they are then, returning to our arthritis example, . . . .

Lord Taverne

  1362. That argument that you are making, that it was not necessary to use the animals, is that not something where you ought to be engaged in a discussion with groups who do not necessarily take exactly the same moral viewpoint as you do? The Boyd Group, which I attended fairly recently, was discussing the use of animal experiments in household products and how they could be limited. Does it not make sense for you to be present at the Boyd Group to take part in these discussions so that while you still have very different moral viewpoints from them, you can at least discuss ways in which suffering of animals could be lessened?
  (Ms Creamer) The Boyd Group is an interesting one. First of all, the view that we take is that we are opposed to all animal experiments but we are looking for a practical positive way forward: how can we step by step eliminate them? There have been many talking shops over the years and one of the best ones was organised by a then Home Office Minister, George Howarth, some years ago. That was a very good day where everyone was in the same room and we did by the end of the day start talking about ideas and positive ways forward. Our problem would be that the Boyd Group has a pre-set agenda, apart from the fact that we are not attracted by their ethics in the way that they invite people to join them. They invite people to join in a personal capacity, there was quite a lot of personal pressure to join, but it can be announced in the media that your organisation is represented. I take the view that I work for a Council of Management and if the organisation is not invited to a Boyd Group meeting then I cannot go. Secondly, it is another talking shop. We have had much more productive discussions with the Home Office and with people who are looking for arrangements that can be made, new methods and new ideas, things that we can do to move the issue forward. One of the reasons that we have campaigned so heavily on freedom of information, for example, and talked to the Home Office a lot about this, is that the reason people get so angry and frustrated is that they feel that their voices are not being heard. The sorts of ideas that we are putting forward will allow people to have some input and feel that their voices are being heard. Yes, we talk to various people but now we are trying to focus on talking to people like the personnel at the Home Office where perhaps we can move things forward and achieve something rather than just talking about an agenda.
  (Mr Phillips) I would stress that we are prepared to be cross-party as it were, have the dialogue if it is meaningful, and we do have concerns with the Boyd Group that it is something of a public relations exercise. I would stress that on freedom of information the discussions which have been cross-party at the Home Office with both sides represented, the Boyd Group do not tend to have been there whereas ourselves and several of the research establishments have. I would note at those discussions that we have gone in that freedom of information is happening. The issue is what information will be given out. We have attempted in those to take a practical stance. We have said that it is out of the question for the experimenters' names to be given out and made public. The addresses of establishments should not be made public. Also we have told both the Home Office and the other people round the table that considerations of commercial, even academic, confidentiality can be addressed. We have gone in there taking what is for an abolitionist organisation I think a realistic and reasonable approach. In those meetings we tend to have been met by blanket dogma from the animal experimentation community saying, "We cannot give out any information whatsoever". I was very pleased to sit in on the sessions here and say that they are now welcoming freedom of information and more transparency, because I hope that two years of deadlock are now over.

Baroness Eccles of Moulton

  1363. I will not ask the question I was going to ask because it involves a rather long dialogue. What I would like to say is that you have referred quite a lot to experimentation alternative to animal experimentation, which you have found. I think it was extremely interesting for the Committee to know a little bit more about that. I have flicked through your evidence which I have not, sadly, had time to read, and I do not think I found anything very much about it in there, but it would be very interesting to know what you found to be available and, even more importantly, what outcomes, what results, you have found which demonstrate very clearly that in vitro experimentation is a good substitute for animals. Do not answer it now but perhaps you could give us something in writing. That would be very helpful.[1]


  1364. It would be very helpful if you could do that. Maybe in that you could touch on the remaining questions, particularly the use of alternatives, because we are particularly interested in that area.

Lord Lucas: Chairman, if I could also ask, I would be very interested to see exactly what information you propose should be made available under the Freedom of Information Act.

Chairman: That would be very useful. Thank you very much indeed.

1   Further memorandum received [Not printed]. Back

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