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expert reaction to Home Office investigations into animal welfare standards following BUAV infiltrations

The Home Office has published reports on investigations into compliance with animal welfare regulations at three facilities. Inquiries were launched after BUAV infiltrations at Imperial College London, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and separate issues at Harlan Laboratories.


Imran Khan, Chief Executive, British Science Association, said:

“This really underlines how important it is that scientists remain open and honest about what research is done on animals, including how and why they are used.”

“Time and time again we see that the public remain broadly supportive of the use of animals in medically vital research – but that can’t be taken for granted, and people have the right to change their minds. Now that the anti-vivisection lobby has largely retreated from violent extremism, the incentive for researchers to talk to the public about their work is stronger than ever.”


Steve Bates, CEO, BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“Today’s publications from the Home Office show that the UK licensing system for the use of animals in scientific research is working.

“Recent Ipsos Mori polling shows that, despite majority support for use in medical research, 50% of people mistakenly believe that animal research sometimes happens without an official licence.

“Today’s news provides a good opportunity for the media, who were quick to run commentary on the original allegations, to highlight the robust regulatory conditions that are already in place for animal research and which in these instances are being adhered to.”


Ms Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive at Understanding Animal Research, said:

“While animal research may not be pleasant to watch, these reports demonstrate that secret filming and clever editing can distort the reality of what is actually happening in animal research facilities. In two of these instances, despite hundreds of allegations of cruelty by animal rights organisations, the Home Office’s thorough investigations found fewer than ten cases of regulatory non-compliance, and contrary to the original claims none of the cases involved significant avoidable or unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress for the animals concerned.  Nor was there any evidence of intent to subvert the regulations.

“While any breach of the regulations, however minimal, is regrettable, these reports perhaps illustrate why the vast majority of the public realises that films like these are created for a particular agenda and today’s reports confirm that the claims activists make are not borne out under close inspection.”

“It is right and proper that anyone using animals in research should be held up to strict scrutiny, which is why we support openness and transparency, but people who are quick to denounce should be as quick to update their statements once the truth has come to light. Future ‘exposes’ should be viewed in the same light, with the understanding that the track record over the last ten years has been that the allegations are wide of the mark and any judgements should await proper scrutiny.

“Animal research remains key to developing medical and veterinary treatments to alleviate human and animal suffering worldwide.

“The third investigation was not a result of an infiltration, but was self-reported and investigated through the home office in the normal way, showing that the system of regulation works. Harlan is to be congratulated for acting so quickly to report the incident and now for being so open about the fact that it happened.”


Declared interests

None declared


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