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news release

Increase in vivisection toll reveals lie of 'strict regulation'

Anti-vivisection group Uncaged [1] today condemned the increase in UK animal experiments for 2003, up by some 60,000 on 2002. The figures cover experiments that are expected to cause "pain, suffering distress or lasting harm." [2]

Myth of 'strict regulation'

"These appalling figures are evidence of the Government's cruel and biased policy on animal experiments", comments Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns Director. "Vivisection is completely out of control in Britain. Claims of 'strict regulation' from the Government and animal researchers' are cynical, cruel lies designed to fool the public into thinking that animal experiments are a medical necessity and that suffering is minimal. The reality is that virtually anything goes, and animal researchers are a law unto themselves. The Government puts more effort into covering-up the cruelty and law-breaking of vivisectors than it does into enforcing regulations."

Feeble and biased inspection

"The level of inspection is completely inadequate, and the Inspectorate is grossly biased in favour of animal research. There are only about 20 Inspectors who in the course of a year are supposed to conduct a careful, professional cost-benefit assessment of over three thousand research projects, each of which is made up of various different kinds of experiment and involves an average of 835 animals. In addition, the Inspectors are supposed to visit laboratories - contained within some 240 establishments - to check up on what is actually happening in the experiments. If each of the 3,000 annual visits is only conducted by one Inspector, and every visit takes just one day [3], then this leaves just half a day for one Inspector to devote to assessing each of the research projects [4], or just over seventeen seconds per animal. This doesn't include the Inspectors' work on formulating policy and advising the Animal Procedures Committee, so the real figure is probably even worse.

"With the best will in the world, the Inspectors could not uphold the law properly. But when we consider that over 80% of them are former vivisectors, [5] then the prospects for neutral regulation are bleak indeed."

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is currently considering two complaints against the Home Office for failing to assess and monitor experiments properly, and for failing to honour a pledge to include an independent element in future investigations into evidence of wrongdoing.

Experiments misrepresented by pro-vivisection lobby

"The Minister Caroline Flint consistently issues blatantly dishonest statements, claiming that UK regulations 'permit only essential research with clear medical benefits' [6]. In fact, the statistics show that thousands of animals are used in poisoning tests for non-pharmaceutical substances. [7] The Government refuses to ban suffering for unarguably trivial items such as washing liquid, and allows painful and traumatic animals tests for substances like refrigerants and industrial chemicals. Furthermore, the Government admits that they have never actually conducted research to evaluate whether animal experiments benefit human medicine, [8] despite scientific doubts over their applicability [9] and thousands of human deaths caused by unforeseen drug side effects."

Uncontrolled suffering

Uncaged also accuse animal researchers and the Home Office of misleading the public over the real level of suffering experienced by animals. Last year, Uncaged won a historic legal battle, on public interest grounds, to publish leaked confidential documents describing pig-to-primate organ transplant experiments conducted by Imutran at Huntingdon Life Sciences. In procedures assessed by the Home Office as of 'moderate' severity, pig hearts and kidneys were transplanted into the necks and abdomens of hundreds of monkeys, who were then administered lethal doses of immunosuppressants in a futile attempt to prevent rejection. 58% of all animal research projects are classed as 'moderate' or worse.

Many primates were literally "found dead" in their cages before they could be euthanased. Additionally, the following observations of the primates were made by researchers - "very distressed and having difficulty breathing... animal collapsed", "uncoordinated limb spasms", "suffered a stroke", "retching and salivating", "abdomen swollen and appears fluid filled. Salivating. Very laboured breathing. Extreme difficulty trying to walk", "large volume of bloody mucoid faeces", "Collapsed on cage floor, appears weak and unable to get up, breathing shallow and rapid, salivating, heavy lidded eyes, body and limb tremors."

The research failed to achieve any of its main objectives, yet was allowed to continue for over five years before the company decided to relocate to North America.

Failure to enforce use of 'alternatives'

The Government has also refused to implement UK and EU law that states where a non-animal or less painful alternative method exists, the traditional animal test method should no longer be allowed. Twice, anti-vivisection campaigners have successfully taken the Home Office to court for failing to stop extremely cruel tests when alternatives were acknowledged to be available. The Government was more concerned with the convenience of the researchers than preventing or minimising animal suffering. The Government has also been repeatedly criticised for its derisory funding for research into non-animal testing and research methods.

No deterrent to illegal cruelty

Enforcing the "highest possible standards of welfare" for animals in the laboratory requires that serious regulatory infringements should incur appropriate, proportionate sanctions. However, the few officially-recognised breaches that have caused significant animal suffering have been treated with virtual indifference by the Government:

  • In the Imutran case, the Government admitted that several monkeys were allowed to suffer from kidney failure and drug poisoning in breach of the law. However, those responsible were merely sent a "letter of admonishment".

  • In November 2001, it emerged that researchers at Cambridge University had subjected 300 mice to a horrific experiment involving the drug 'speed' and exposure to extremely loud music. As a result, some of the mice died during the experiment, others suffered seizures and brain damage, and some displayed abnormal repetitive behaviour, a sign of severe mental disturbance. After months of pressure from the anti-vivisection group BUAV, the Government finally admitted that the research was unlicensed and therefore illegal. However, once again, the culprits were merely "admonished."


  1. Uncaged campaigns peacefully and legally.
  2. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, 2(1).
  3. There were 2263 visits to inspect labs and experiments in progress in 2002, this means that one visit per 1,173 animals per year.
  4. 1660 Inspector-working days to assess 3,180 projects.
  5. Written Answer, Mike O’Brien MP, 6/4/00, Hansard.
  6. Home Office Press Release, 7 Sept 2004, Ref 280/2004. See also Prof Chris Higgins, Medical Research Council Chief Executive: “"But, of course, if the medical benefit potentially outweighs that suffering permission is granted.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3633468.stm
  7. 144,744 procedures involving toxicology testing of substances other than pharmaceuticals, table 13, 2002 statistics.
  8. Written Answer, Caroline Flint MP, 31 March 2004, Hansard.
  9. Pound et al., “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans”, BMJ 2004; 328: 514-517.

Uncaged Campaigns 07.09.04


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.