The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is delighted with a recent concession from the government that more openness is needed on animal experiments, but is dismayed that the government plans to delay action.
After an eight year campaign for any Freedom of Information Act to be applied to animal experiments, the NAVS has welcomed the announcement by Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth that the government agrees with the NAVS' contention that, in light of the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the confidentiality clause in the legislation governing animal experimentation is redundant.
"This is a great step forward," said NAVS Chief Executive Jan Creamer, "it is time for the government to stand up to the pressure from the scientific commmunity to maintain the completely unwarranted blanket of secrecy on animal experiments.
"The public is deeply concerned about the use of animals in research, but is excluded from access to any information which would allow them to judge for themselves whether the experiments are necessary. To continue with this level of secrecy only serves to convince people that there is something to hide. It is secrecy and exclusion that makes people angry."
Although disappointed that the announcement is to be followed with yet a further period of consultation, as there has already been two years of consultation, the NAVS believes that the scientific community is going to be hard-pressed to find further excuses for delay.
Creamer notes, "The NAVS has been calling for freedom
of information on animal experiments for eight years, the
Animal Procedures Committee has agreed there is a need for
greater opennness, a House of Lords Select Committee on Animals
has supported our call, now the government has conceded we
need greater openness, surely it is time that the government
simply stopped prevaricating."
"The claim that freedom of information would threaten scientists' personal safety is a red herring" said Jan Creamer. "The Freedom of Information Act 2000 already provides for personal safety and confidentiality. It simply is not necessary to maintain this blanket confidentiality clause. "If the scientific community believes in what it is doing to animals in laboratories, it should be prepared to be questioned in public".