Would Cameras Protect Lab Animals from Abuse?
Following the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection’s (BUAV) undercover investigation that exposed horrific cruelty and incompetence at Imperial College London, Animal Aid is renewing its campaign to have CCTV cameras installed in labs that use animals.
The BUAV’s investigation highlighted some of the many problems with using animals in science ranging from the cruelty of the experiments themselves and mistreatment of animals in general to the incompetence, disregard for animal suffering and general lack of knowledge about the acceptable treatment of animals demonstrated by researchers.
You wouldn’t think that these types of problems would be found at one of the top schools in the world, but they were and they were ongoing, and they were also only brought to light because of the BUAV. Unfortunately, problems with animal experiments are more pervasive than just this one instance and continue to go unchecked, remaining shrouded in secrecy despite claims from the industry that it is highly regulated.
In February, Animal Aid published a report, Science Corrupted, highlighting some of the problems in animal research from the egregious suffering experiments cause to the pointlessness of using animals, particularly GM mice, as a model for human diseases.
According to Animal Aid, the current regulatory system is deficient, with only 21 full-time inspectors employed by the Home Office to oversee an estimated 3.8 million experiments every year at 188 facilities. The organization points out that inspectors may never catch cruelty on the part of researchers, because no one would do anything in front of them and even with unannounced visits there is still time for facilities to hide anything incriminating.
In the BUAV’s investigation, one researcher is heard saying “If the Home Office was in, we would have been screwed,” upon finding mice suffering in an inexcusably poor state on a Monday morning.
Animal Aid believes having CCTV cameras would deter abuse and help catch it when it does happen. Last May the organization, along with the National Anti-Vivisection Society, submitted a proposal in support of installing cameras to the Home Office and would now like to start phasing in them in starting with the ever-deserving Imperial College.
The organizations also believes that those providing funding for, and reaping profits from, animal experiments should be responsible for footing the bill for installing cameras and having them monitored, which would be done by an independent committee made up of “a veterinarian, independent scientists, animal behaviour and welfare experts and representatives from animal welfare groups.”
According to Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:
Laboratory workers conducting animal experiments have a special dispensation to inflict the kind of suffering on animals that would ordinarily get them locked up. That places on them, and on the Home Office, which authorises the activity, a duty to take every possible step to reduce animal suffering. No lab worker is going to engage in gross unauthorised cruelty in front of an inspector. But CCTV cameras can pick up such behaviour. Better still, they can prevent it. Gross incompetence is also more difficult to conceal and cover up if cameras are watching,
Cameras are now going into slaughterhouses because the public and key sectors of the food industry itself demand it. With the public also deeply sceptical about what goes on behind the locked doors of labs, the case for installing CCTV in vivisection establishments is overwhelming.
For more information on progress with the BUAV’s investigation, visit Licensed to Kill.
Photo credit: Thinkstock