Following a three year struggle, a request made by the Abolition of Vivisection – an animal rights protest group – for major universities to release details of their research experiments on primates, as been successful.
The universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, King’s College London and University College London initially refused to release information in 2006 but they will now have to comply with the new ruling, made by the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas under the Freedom of Information Act.
The initial resistance expressed by universities, including Cambridge, came as a result of security fears for the protection of researchers from animal rights campaigners.
In 2004, for example, Cambridge cancelled plans for a primate research centre, in part due to safety concerns. In the same year, Oxford experienced approximately 650 riots from animal rights groups.
However, the new ruling means these universities must release details specifically concerning the number and species of primates used. Richard Thomas said that the risk to researchers would “not be increased”, because it is consistently an issue for the universities, whether their research becomes more transparent or not.
Michelle Thew, a spokesperson for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection has claimed that the universities are “hiding behind” the security concerns.
However, University College London argued that they wish to be “as open and transparent as possible about our research”.
A spokesperson for the University told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “The University of Cambridge intends to fully comply with the Information Commissioner’s decision and will release the data originally requested. Without animal research many treatments we take for granted today would not be possible. Ongoing research with animals here and elsewhere offers the hope of effective treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis to name a few as well as the development of vaccines for malaria and AIDS. No one would use animals in research if it wasn’t absolutely necessary and all of the animal research undertaken at the University is rigorously regulated. In fact, by law they cannot use animals used in research if there is an alternative. Additionally, Cambridge has been at the forefront of developing new techniques to replace animals used in research, recently winning a national award for their endeavours.”
Harriett Russell – News Reporter