rights campaigners have won a legal row with a North East university over
access to animal testing data
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) launched action after
a failed Freedom of Information request on experiments carried out at Newcastle
asked the university’s medical research department for details on
testing procedures and welfare controls for tests on primates undertaken
in 2008. Almost
21,000 animals were used in medical experiments at the university that year,
including Macaque monkeys for examining new treatments for Parkinson’s
disease, Alzheimer’s and spinal conditions.
bosses rejected the FoI request, claiming the institution itself did not
hold the information requested and that sensitive research programmes would
be endangered if details were released before the work was completed. They
argued that research details remained the “intellectual property”
of individual scientists and not the university until work was finished
and published in UK medical journals.
Government’s Freedom of Information Commissioner agreed with the university’s
stance but BUAV leaders appealed the decision. An
appeal tribunal hearing in London yesterday found against the university’s
principal argument for not meeting the FoI request. In its judgement, the
tribunal, led by Judge Bartlett QC, ruled: “BUAV submitted it would
be remarkable if the university did not hold important information about
extensive animal research carried out on its premises by its employees.
is work for which it received the funds, for which it provided the facilities,
the training, the ancillary staff, and the necessary insurances, in respect
of which the university owed duties of care to safeguard employees and the
local community from biosecurity risks. We agree with BUAV’s argument.”
tribunal now rules that individual scientists would not be endangered by
the release of sensitive testing data, the university will be expected to
meet the original FoI request.
Thew, BUAV chief executive, said: “This is a victory for common sense.
For over two years, Newcastle University has tried every which way to avoid
providing us with information. “These
are highly controversial and invasive experiments and the public, particularly
in Newcastle, has a right to know what is happening to these poor animals.”
for Newcastle University said: “We are disappointed by this ruling.
We have never hidden the fact that we carry out a small amount of work
on primates, where no alternative exists.”