The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Animal Experiments Bill 'not enough'
by Annabel Miller

From The Universe dated Friday, March 21, 1986:

The future of animal experimentation was in the balance this week, as the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill was debated in committee against a background of criticism from Catholic Bishop Agnellus Andrew and other church leaders.

Supporters of the bill, which would replace the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, hope to see it passed by Easter. It would require scientists to obtain licences for their projects from the Home Secretary before they start work.

The Home Secretary would be advised by the Animal Procedures Committee, composed of scientists and a team of about 15 inspectors, appointed to cover the whole country. Penalties for offences of cruelty would be increased.

Bishop Andrew said the Bill would offer little in the way of increased protection for laboratory animals. Speaking as president of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare and a patron of Animal Christian Concern, he said:

"Nearly all the powers the new Bill would give to the Secretary of State are contained in the old bill. If the new one becomes law I am convinced many experiments will continue."

The present bill does not spell out what types of experimentation would be permitted, but all would have to fall into one of seven categories.

These include "the prevention (whether by the testing of any product or otherwise) or the diagnosis or treatment of disease, ill-health or abnormality, or their effects, in man, animals or plants". This would allow research to continue on into toiletries, alcohol and tobacco. Animals could also be used for the testing of microsurgery techniques.

"I feel insufficient power would be given to the Advisory Committee," said Bishop Andrew. "It would not have the scope to initiate controls but would act as a point of reference for the Secretary of State. I also feel it would be unduly weighted towards the scientific lobby".

In a letter to The Times also signed by Bishop Clark of East Anglia and other Church leaders, Bishop Andrew attacked the "secrecy" the bill would permit. One of its clauses could allow those who reveal information about confidential experiments to be imprisoned.

Ex-animal experimenter Mr Richard Ryder is one of the bill's most vociferous opponents. He is now programme organiser of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and was chairman of the RSPCA from 1977-1979.

"The bill will not require experimenters to be skilled in painkilling (anaesthetising the animals before experiments)" he said, "Also, this "enabling" bill allows government to by-pass Parliament. The new Home Office Committee will be stacked with scientists."

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