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
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."