Friday, 27 July 2007

Animal wrongs

The BUAV have got plenty of publicity for their case against the government in the high court. Yet they only seem to have won on one issue:

The High Court ruled that Buav was correct in stating that the government was failing to correctly determine the severity limits for animal experiments.
Which, judging from the BUAV press release refers to

The BUAV is also questioning why the Home Office assigned a ‘moderate’ suffering banding to experiments which included highly invasive procedures such as removing of the top of marmoset’s heads to induce strokes. The guidelines state that any procedure which ‘may lead to a major departure from the animals’ usual state of health and of well-being’ must be categorised as ‘substantial’, and undergo far stricter assessment to get licensed.
Despite this the general tenor of the media coverage is that (e.g.):

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection today won its High Court claim that the Government is failing in its legal duty to ensure animal suffering is kept to a minimum in UK laboratories.
Now I'm not sure of the legal minutiae of this case, but my copy of Wolfensohn & Lloyd lists, for moderate severity procedures:

    • Surgical procedures where post-operative care and analgesia are reliably provided
    • Toxicity tests with defined humane end points (as opposed to lethality as the end point)
and for substantial severity:
    • Major surgery causing post-operative suffering
    • Toxicity studies with significant morbidity or death as an end point
    • Any procedure which results in significant deviation from the animals' normal state of health
I think this puts some context to that last phrase, "Any procedure which results in significant deviation from the animals' normal state of health", which, if you weren't aware of the definitions, you might think basically applies to any surgical intervention you might make (it seems like it is likely to cause 'deviation' from it's normal state of health), but clearly that is not the case, otherise the moderate category wouldn't exist.

Of course, the BUAV may well be right that in this particular case the procedure (inducing strokes) did warrant inclusion under the significant category, but my experience with animals receiving neurological insult for experimental purposes suggests that they are generally surprisingly unaffected by the whole business - this is partly because the effects of stroke on an animal are less severe due to the way their brains are wired, and partly due to their general lack of awareness of any deficits induced (not being human and thus unable to ruminate on their loss of capacity).

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