Examination of Witness (Questions 1380-1398)|
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2002
1380. We have had a lot of evidence that delays
do not in any way mean better security for animals. I put the
same question to you that I put to the previous witnesses: suppose
that these delays and the element of bureaucracy actually makes
the suffering of animals worse and it means that more are killed,
would it not be better to simplify the procedure and have less
(Mr Ward) I was interested in that. I would ask you
before I answer, how would more animals be killed? Why would more
animals have to be killed because of bureaucracy?
1381. We have had examples of people who have
done experiments on rats but their licence does not allow them
to kill mice, so then they have to spend weeks or months waiting
for the new licence and in the meantime the rats or whatever it
is have to be killed because they are no longer of any use.
(Mr Ward) That is not a failure of the system, that
is a failure of the scientist and the scientific community. I
would say that is an appalling state of affairs where the scientific
community are incapable of deciding the choice of animals that
they should be using. This law that we have was introduced in
order to protect animal welfare at the same time as protecting
science. If scientists cannot get their act together then it is
no fault of the law or the Act. Animals should not lose their
lives because of that. I would hope that those individuals would
be reprimanded for their lack of judgment.
Earl of Onslow
1382. May I follow that up. Let us assume that
during this experiment it becomes clear that the course of the
experiment has to change because of what they have learned during
that. That is the delay to which Lord Taverne is referring, not
the general human tendency to bog things up, with which I am in
complete agreement one sees around us all the time, there is nothing
new in that, that is the way of humanity. There are occasions
when from knowledge of what has been learned you actually have
to change the format of the experiment and getting approval for
this does, as far as we have learned, take an enormously long
time to the detriment of science and to the detriment of animal
welfare. You do not accept that is possible?
(Mr Ward) I am absolutely astonished. In my time as
a member of the APC I was in sufficient contact with the Inspectorate
to know that once a project licence is issued the cost benefit
analysis continues right throughout the experiment if it is three
years, four years, that goes on all the time. Circumstances change,
the level of severity might change, the types of procedures might
change, a need to move on to a more relevant animal might change,
but the system copes with that. I cannot understand where the
logjam lies. For example, how on earth could you have a logjam
if you have 100 rats which you have put a cancerous tumour into?
You could not wait a month or two months while they got approval
because the cancerous tumour would grow and you would have to
put down the animals. There is a system within the system which
allows for fast track approval and that was how I always understood
1383. The evidence that we have had is that
our system in many ways, as you rightly say, is an extremely good
one but we have also got evidence that it is actually very sclerotic.
I am not allowed to say "constipated" because the alternative
gets us into serious trouble. What one is trying to do by making
the system in some ways quicker is actually to ease suffering.
Your implication in answer to Lord Taverne was it is only through
scientific incompetence that that extension comes about. I thought
your second answer agreed almost identically with what Lord Taverne
and I are possibly saying, that you do get changes. Our evidence
is that there are delays in licensing which are producing extra
suffering but you do not accept that.
(Mr Ward) There were two questions put. One by Lord
Taverne that I answered because I was shocked by it. I took your
question, and I have given you the answer to that, that there
is a system within the 1986 Act that actually allows for that
situation. I was totally unaware of what you are suggesting, that
there seems to be such a delay that would result, possibly, in
some animals having to be put down. I cannot believe that happened,
that is not my understanding of the system. I could facetiously
say that whoever gave you that information may well not be coming
from the welfare side, it may well be someone who is pro-research,
I do not know. I think you have to go back to them and ask them
to come back with more information and then go to the Home Office
for clarification. It is not what I recognise.
1384. What prompted your decision to set up
and participate in the Boyd Group? What do you consider it has
achieved? How can it be made more effective?
(Mr Ward) I, like many others, was frustrated with
the way we, the animal welfare and scientific communities seem
to always be fighting a trench warfare; we are in trenches, letting
fly about why animal experimentation is wrong. The scientific
community comes back and says why animal research is right, always
wishing, when you see comments in the paper, if only I could have
put in another comment. I was on that terrible programme Kilroy
one morning and whilst on Kilroy, as he was flitting
about smiling to the camera, we were not getting anywhere on the
subject of animal experiments, it was not a serious programme.
I had had enough. On that programme was Professor Colin Blakemore
and he asked me, and he did not expect the answer he got, whether
or not I condemned the activities of those who plant fire bombs
and I said, without reservation, I did. I then said to him after
the programme, maybe, you know, if you feel the same way as I
do, we could get together and see if it is possible to bring together
the scientific and anti-vivisection and animal welfare movements.
We could all sit round the table and rather than slagging each
other off in the press we could do so round the table. We would
then have an opportunity, to hear all the arguments, they could
hear mine, we could test the arguments, and we could see if there
was someway of finding common ground to move this whole controversial
subject of animal experimentation forwardto avoid situations
where a certain Chancellor of a university once said, "we
need to man the barricades against the anti-vivisection movement."
That will get us nowhere. With Colin Blakemore we managed to bring
together a wide range of people and opinions. I regret I have
to disagree with the NAVS that this is a PR exercise. If it was
a PR exercise I would not be with the Boyd Group. It is not totally
fail safe. There are still people there who I believe are holding
entrenched positions. I would greatly welcome the inputs of the
NAVS, BUAV and the other mainstream anti-vivisection organisations
to get in their and test the arguments of the scientific community.
If they do not like any of the reports coming out they can make
it clear they do not like any of the reports coming out. Not everyone
is there as an individual, as they have suggested. Advocates is
there as an organisation and we are prepared to stand up and be
counted on what we believe. What have we have achieved? Interestingly,
there was a circular that went round all of the group recently
and one of the initial things when the Boyd Group was established
that I hoped to get out of it was for people to understand where
I was coming from. In the questionnaire, when returned, were comments
like "now I understand why the anti-vivisectionists hold
such a strong view on morals, on ethics, on why animals should
not be used in particular areas", and similar comments like
that. I wanted to test the scientific community who said, "we
dislike using animals", I wanted to test the authenticity
of this statement. Before cosmetic testing was abolished by the
government, or a ban introduced, the Boyd Group called for it
to be banned. That was great, here was the animal welfare and
the scientific community going together to the Home Office with
a powerful voice and putting the case forward. Lord Taverne was
there when they were discussing household products, it seems we
are getting very close to the scientific and anti-vivisection
movement going to Government to say household product testing
is wrong. I have hopes for the Boyd Group. However, I am not naïve.
If it looks if the Boyd Group is becoming no more than a talking
shop, it is turning into a PR exercise, and that is why it is
important to get the other anti-vivisection groups in, but if
it did turn into those things then Advocates for Animals would
have to walk away from it.
1385. That is a very comprehensive explanation.
If you can go to the crucial question, how could alternatives
to animal procedures be developed more effectively, published
more widely and accepted by regulatory bodies more rapidly?
(Mr Ward) To be brief, I am not an alternatives expert.
However I believe the following would help. A centralised database
most certainly. I do not believe scientists know where all of
the alternatives exist at the moment. As I touched on earlier,
there should be more funding and there should be more effort put
into funding alternatives. At the present time alternative science
lacks status and I think we would really benefit if those who
use animals, scientists who use animals, were to get in contact
with those scientists who did not use animals and together matters
could be moved forward considerably. I would love to see the United
Kingdom establish, and I believe the NAVS touched on this, its
first centre for alternatives, where resources could be pulled
and minds could be put to good use in finding these alternatives.
There are difficulties of comparing the alternative tests to the
flawed animal tests that exist. In toxicity testing, I believe,
as NAVS have also indicated today, there are a number of toxicity
tests where alternatives exist. I believe that with greater effort
and pressure we could bring an end to a considerable number of
toxicity tests. I think we should avoid duplication. I think there
should be a sharing of data with these commercial companies. If
there is any concern over confidentiality claims then I believe
there should be an honest broker, an ombudsman who can look into
the claims and decide whether or not that is the case or not.
I would be all for placing a levy on every animal that is used
in a laboratory, it would not only concentrate the minds of the
scientist over the number of animals used but I think it could
raise an amount of money that could then be targeted into alternatives.
I think we should also set targets to reduce animal numbers, and
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
1386. Some of us were in the United States a
couple of weeks ago and we were told that in the library of the
US Department of Agriculture there was a very big database on
alternatives for animal experimentation, and indeed, before anyone
could have a grant application processed they must have shown
that they consulted that database. Do you know of that database?
If you do, could we build on that in this country?
(Mr Ward) Absolutely Lord Soulsby, that is why I believe
the United Kingdom should establish its own database in this country,
that takes Medline and all of the other databases that exist and
put them into one central database so when a scientist puts in
a project licence that he or she, in their opinion, believes there
is are no alternatives available, then at least the public can
have some sort of confidence that if they have gone to a central
database they would have found all of the alternatives available.
1387. Unfortunately I did not go to the United
States but have heard reports on it. Do you think that the American
model of having a Centre for Alternatives is something that we
(Mr Ward) As someone who does not like to give too
much credit to the Americans however, if the Americans have got
a system that works well and we can learn from that system and
the system is as good as people say it is, then absolutely. If
we can learn lessons in this country then we should. My understanding
is that in the UK there are enough minds around, both within the
pro-research community and in the alternatives community, to come
up with a very, very good central database for the UK.
1388. There is also a centre in Utrecht in Holland
and we are taking evidence from them later.
(Mr Ward) Indeed.
1389. Your view is that there should be perhaps
minimally one but preferably more than one centre which particularly
prosecutes the whole research for alternatives?
(Mr Ward) My own view would be that we have one central
database that takes in everything.
1390. You do not think there is a case for dispersing
this a bit, that in other words we should have more than one?
(Mr Ward) At the moment it is dispersed all over the
place in three or four different databases. We have heard already
this afternoon, claims that scientists research is being held
up. Here they could go to the one central database, programme
in the details and out comes the information that they require.
They could also go to individuals working within the database
for confirmation that that is the case or further advice.
1391. Perhaps we will go back to a question
which I missed out. How might more information on animal procedures
be made publicly available without compromising the personal safety
of researchers? You touched on the intellectual property side
and the commercial interest side, what about the safety of researchers?
You said that you have condemned the harassment of them.
(Mr Ward) Yes, I have. I think I have already touched
on that, which is the project licence system. It is the secrecy
that causes so much concern in the UK over animal experiments.
Before I was a member of the APC I was never allowed in a laboratory,
no-one would let me in. But when I was on the APC it was open
doors and it was great. At last I could meet scientists and other
research staff and discuss directly with them their own and my
concerns. I think that is what also needs to happen. Organisations
like the NAVS, the BUAV, should be invited into laboratories if
they are willing to go so they can discuss their concerns at face
to face with those who use animals in research.
1392. Now you are not on the APC can you get
(Mr Ward) I have not tried, but who knows? I think
I am seen as the moderate face of the anti-vivisection movement,
maybe I possibly could get in.
Earl of Onslow
1393. I find myself in agreement with a considerable
amount of what you are saying and I am nearly on the point of
saying you seem to be mainstream, but there are people of such
nastiness in the "animal rights" movement who will do
really barbaric things to people who are involved in any way in
the scientific experiments or experimental work and those people
do have to be condemned and the others protected. Surely that
is the concern which question five is designed to address rather
than somebody of such eminent respectability and such mainstream
views as yourself.
(Mr Ward) If you maintain the secrecy that surrounds
animal experiments then I think the point that the NAVS made,
and I thank the clerk of this committee for sending me their written
submission, is a valid one, ie that unless they and the other
responsible anti-vivisection groups are able to see what is going
on and alleviate the concern that is out there, the extremists,
who are in the minority, will continue to gather apace. I think
the anti-vivisection movement has to be able to see these project
licences on a website or wherever appropriate it might be so they
can see what is going on as well as being given the opportunity
to suggest alternatives but of course remove from these licenses
all of the details of the research team and also the research
laboratory. I think that is possible.
1394. We heard in America that even if you take
those sorts of details out it is not too difficult to identify
(Mr Ward) I think it is possible to identify a research
team in a specific field, ie Parkinson's research, but again that
is why I believe there should also be this ombudsman who would
decide. That would be something that when a project licence is
submitted the team would suggest by having that particular research
on to a website that would identify them and where they work.
I think steps can be taken to overcome that. I think it would
be completely unworkable, as the NAVS has suggested, for the APC
to see all project licences, there is just no way the APC could
take on board that work. When I was there, and as I believe is
the case now, the APC is just overstretched with work. I do not
think that is possible but I think what the NAVS is trying to
secure is right and if we are to take on these extremists and
maintain the support of the majority within those who support
anti-vivisection then there has to be some give by the scientific
community or, regretfully, those who do plant firebombs will continue
to do so.
Chairman: One last question from Lord Soulsby.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: I would just like
to challenge you a little about making research public, putting
it in the public domain, because the majority of research is,
in fact, put in the public domain through scientific publications.
What you are saying in a way looking at the grant applications,
the proposals, and many of these do not get funded of course,
is what you are concerned about is those that do get funded and
what is happening, but eventually they get published in journals
that are available to the general public and you can see what
has happened, the number of animals used, the methods used, materials
and methods of conclusion and the rest.
1395. Lord Soulsby is primarily talking about
academic research, there would not be too many papers coming out
from the pharmaceutical industry.
(Mr Ward) In my opinion there are a couple of problems
with that. One is it would be very unusual for a project licence
application to get all the way to the Home Office if funding is
not already there because otherwise to go through all this system
only to find that they have not got the money to do the work would
be a . . . . I know what you are going to say.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
1396. Quite frankly, I would agree with that.
(Mr Ward) It would be very, very unusual in my opinion
for that to happen. When the research papers are published they
are often published three years, five years sometimes, after the
research ended. What we are saying is we want to be given the
opportunity to suggest whether there are alternatives available
because once the work is done and once it is published there is
no way we can do that and that is what we seek.
1397. The point I was making was that research
is put into the public domain eventually so you can in fact read
it, analyse it, see who has done it, where it has been done, and
(Mr Ward) But the problem with that is on the research
that is put into the public domain it is very, very difficult
to get a real handle on what has actually been done to the animals,
their welfare, what thoughts were given to enrichment, the suffering
the animals had to undergo. Advocates for Animals have had experience
of this. We had a senior scientific panel, we got the research
papers, we passed them to them and they said some of it was okay
in their opinion, other work was not. We then published a report
only for the scientists to come back and say, "you misunderstood".
We only misunderstood, if that was the case, because the details
were not there. The project licence contains all the details you
need to be able to assess the project licence and that is not
in the published papers.
1398. I was going to ask whether a small step
in the right direction of public relations might be through the
Home Office itself improving the way that it publishes the statistics?
(Mr Ward) Absolutely. I think there is
great scope for the Home Office statistics to be improved. Certainly
it would be good to know what was actually done under the mild,
moderate and substantial bands.
Chairman: Mr Ward, thank you very much indeed for
coming before us, we much appreciate it.