The Secrecy Clause
Ask a group of British people about animal testing in the UK. Ask about the scale and purpose of the experiments which take place, and about what types of suffering animals are subjected to here, at a rate of over 10,000 per day, and see what answers you get.
On average, you’ll find that most of us are unaware of the facts. What did the experiment involve? What method did the researchers use? What were animals allowed to eat and drink and how were they accommodated? How did researchers kill each animal at the end of the experiment? What animal management qualifications did the breeders, handlers and researchers hold? All questions we can’t answer, because it’s a crime in law to put these details in to the public domain.
Basic data is published every year by the Home Office, which publishes the numbers of experiments by type and species. But they don’t describe any of the animal welfare conditions which we need to understand. As taxpayers, consumers and shareholders we pay for each of these experiments, but there’s no way to learn about animal welfare. If we try to find out, appeals for information are blocked under section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986, the so called Secrecy Clause. Animal welfare campaigners and the public alike can only guess how test subjects are treated. According to investigations and leaked information from inside labs, all the clues suggest our deep concern is very well justified.
There are some features of the UK animal testing regime we can be clear about. For example:
Just 20 UK Government Home Office inspectors are responsible for ensuring compliance across the country, that’s the proper care and management of 200,000 living beings per inspector per year!
We know that despite a 2013 industry concordat to research the means for describing practices openly, the Secrecy Clause remains intact. We know that a public consultation by UK Coalition Government in May/June 2014, exploring amendment or repeal of the secrecy clause has been shelved. And we know that throughout each month of delay, research teams need not anticipate inspection, any public investigation of testing methods, or any challenge to the established system of ‘self-reporting’.
At Naturewatch Foundation we believe that any of the following approaches to regulating laboratories will have a profound effect on improving animal welfare:
- Publication of detailed method descriptions for breeding, accommodating, transporting, feeding, exercising, training, testing and killing of animals for each experiment.
- Publication of the methods by which around 1 million genetically modified animals are bred each year.
- A rating system for the intended and final public benefit of each experiment, weighed against the planned and actual suffering caused, so that we reach an informed opinion in Britain.
- A black box CCTV system trial, to allow inspectors to review evidence of malpractice in labs.
- A full description of the method and scale of lab inspections in Britain.
The consequences of Section 24 are dire. Making it illegal to check animal care in British laboratories renders industry messages about replacing, reducing and refining animal experiments nothing more than a hollow sound-bite.
Please write to your MP and ask them to contact the Home Office on your behalf to urge for a repeal of Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.