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Government withholding of animal experiment details ruled unlawful

A LEGAL tribunal has ruled that the Government has been unlawfully withholding details of the animal experiments it licences in the UK.

A court case came about when the Home Office refused to give the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) basic information about licences to experiment on animals under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The Home Office attempted to argue that the only information they could release was the summaries of experiments that researchers wished to apply for. However, the BUAV believes that the summaries are clearly spun for public consumption and do not enable researchers to uncover the hidden reality of animal testing which is vital to an informed debate. Government arguments on the security of those carrying out the experiments was dismissed, and the BUAV stated that it is not and has never been interested in information that identifies who is or was involved or where the research is or has taken place.

The information asked for by the BUAV included:

• The purpose of the experiment
• What is to be done to the animals
• How the applicant intended to limit animal suffering
• How they proved it was essential they used animals rather than
alternatives in their proposed experiments.

On 30th January, an information tribunal agreed that experiment summaries are biased towards emphasising the positive aspects of research. The tribunal said summaries amounted to creating a ‘perception of a positive spin’. The BUAV argues that this inevitably means any negative aspects such as animal suffering are downplayed.

The tribunal ruled that the Government has been unlawfully withholding details of the animal experiments it licences in the UK.

This was clearly a key victory in the BUAV's campaign to get the Government to abide by the FOI law and be open and transparent about animal experiments. In the future far more information about what is done to lab animals and for what purpose — and about consideration of
non-animal alternatives — will have to be disclosed by the Government.

The BUAV's Chief Executive, Michelle Thew said: ‘This is not just a victory for the BUAV — this is a victory for the British public who expect to access honest and open information about the nature of animal experiments that take place in the UK.

‘The Home Office's repeated refusal to release basic non-confidential information about animal experiments just goes to further prove they are afraid of how the public will react if they are given real information about what actually happens to animals in UK laboratories, often at tax payer’s expense.’