Imperial animal testing report ‘should resonate’ across sector

A list of recommendations on improving management of animal research at Imperial College London should “resonate” across the UK, their authors say

Imperial commissioned an independent report into its animal research after the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection infiltrated its facilities earlier this year, leading to allegations in The Sunday Times of mistreatment of animals.

The report was drawn up by a committee of experts in animal experimentation and welfare chaired by Steve Brown, director of the Medical Research Council’s Mammalian Genetics Unit at Harwell.

Professor Brown said the review committee, which drew up its own terms of reference, decided to advise Imperial on how it could attain a “leadership position” regarding the welfare and the replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research (known as the three Rs) “commensurate with its status as world-leading university”.

He said the investigation had not found a “culture where people didn’t care” about animal welfare and commended Imperial’s animal facilities and standards of animal husbandry. But the institution “didn’t have adequate operational leadership, management, training, supervisory and ethical review systems” to “really fulfil” the animal house staff’s aspirations to “push forward animal welfare and, in particular, the 3Rs to the highest standards”.

The report, which includes 33 recommendations, found that Imperial’s ethical review processes did not provide a forum to bring scientists together with animal house staff, technicians and statisticians to discuss improvements.

It found that the animal house’s reliance on agency staff minimised contact between scientists and permanent staff with what review committee member Neil Yates, director of the biosupport unit at the University of Nottingham, called the “quality and expertise” to “truly engage with [them] as equals”.

Although the review panel only had the time and remit to investigate Imperial, Professor Brown said it had set out standards to which all institutions should be aspiring, since failure to live up to them increased the risk of unnecessary animal suffering.

“A lot of recommendations will have resonance across the country - though whether they should be enshrined under the Animals Act is [something] for a further discussion - [which] should happen,” he added.

In a statement Imperial says it has accepted all of the recommendations, which also include appointing a senior staff member to oversee animal welfare strategy. It will draw up an “action plan” by next month, “invest in staffing and leadership” and publish an annual report on its animal research. 

Tony Peatfield, director of corporate affairs at the MRC, said the research council would be considering “whether there are any lessons for the animal facilities for which the MRC is responsible”.

A Home Office investigation into the BUAV’s specific allegations is expected to be concluded early in the new year.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Woman taking homeopathic medicine

Alternative treatments in healthcare plan is latest in a series of homeopathy-related controversies

Phil Baty explains why hundreds of research papers will not be considered when compiling the next Times Higher Education rankings

  • Man lying beneath rugby pile-up

Six academics share their experiences before delivering a verdict on the system

  • Zygmunt Bauman with hand over mouth

Eminent sociologist has recycled 90,000 words of material across a dozen books, claims paper

  • Foot about to step on banana peel

Kevin Haggerty and Aaron Doyle offer tips on making postgraduate study even tougher (which students could also use to avoid pitfalls if they prefer)