Making decisions on animal research is impossible if the relevant information is not disclosed. This is true for decisions to be made both in public policy and by the so-called people in the street.
This is why this recent event is an important victory.
The UK’s Information Tribunal on 30 January 2008 ruled that the government’s
withholding the details of the animal experiments it licenses in the country is against the law because it violates the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), introduced in January 2005.
The case was brought by the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) after the Home Office refused to reveal basic information about animal experiment licences: experiment’s purpose, what is to be done to the animals, how the applicants proposed to limit animal suffering and, crucially, how they proved it was essential to use animals rather than alternatives in their intended experiments. The BUAV was not looking for information on who is involved or where the research is occurring.
This ruling now means that the government will have to disclose much more information about what is done to laboratory animals, for what purpose, and what consideration has been given to non-animal alternative methods.
Andre Menache said in an interview:
“The other difficulty especially in the UK is this obsession with secrecy. The Freedom of Information Act came into effect in 2005 with respect to animal experimentation. I can tell you that the Home Office simply laughs in your face when you try and obtain information from them about animal experiments using the Freedom of Information Act. They simply say, ‘Sorry we have this information but we can't give it to you because of the activities of a small group of people who may endanger the safety of the researchers and institutions.'
“All this talk about transparency I'm afraid it's not happening and if it is happening then it's not happening fast enough. I would say transparency is a good thing but it's like passing a law which sounds good but it's unenforceable.”
Maybe now we can be a bit more optimistic than that.