Thursday, January 31, 2008

Campaigners win key animal test FOI victory

Press release from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection:
The Government has been unlawfully withholding the details of the animal experiments it licenses in the UK, according to a key ruling from the Information Tribunal released today.

The case was brought by the BUAV after the Home Office refused to reveal basic information about animal experiment licences the organisation had applied for under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). It attempted to argue that only the information which researchers applying for such licences chose to publish in summaries could be released.

The basic information asked for by the BUAV covers the purpose of the experiment, what is to be done to the animals, how the applicant intended to limit animal suffering and, crucially, how they proved it was essential they used animals rather than alternatives in their proposed experiments. The BUAV 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 organisation first asked for the licence information of five separate applications as a FOI test case soon after the Act came into force in January 2005. The Government had attempted to fudge its duty to release information so far by releasing ‘summaries’ of the licence information spun for public consumption. The tribunal agreed with the BUAV that such summaries are biased towards emphasising the positive aspects of the research and said they amounted to creating a “perception of a positive spin”. The BUAV argues this inevitably means any negative aspects such as animal suffering are downplayed.

‘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 payers expense,’ said BUAV chief executive Michelle Thew.

The Home Office has been directed by the Tribunal to conduct a proper analysis of what is, and what is not confidential within the licence applications in question following the ruling.


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