Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 21st May 2018
Our review finds EU summaries of animal experiments are inadequate
We reveal that UK is one of the worst offenders
All EU countries are now required to publish non-technical summaries of every project involving experiments on animals that they authorise. However, our analysis has found that the summaries are often unclear, misleading and incomplete. A review by our science team, recently published in ALTEX , found that, in fact, the UK was one of the worst culprits for producing poor summaries.
According to EU Directive 2016/63/EU, the summaries are supposed to include information on project objectives; including the predicted harm caused to the animals, benefits of the research, the number and types of animals being used, and how efforts were made attempt to reduce, refine and replace (the 3Rs) animal experiments.
Alarmingly, our science team has discovered that the UK is the worst at publishing summaries in a timely manner, with a staggering 2-year delay between the authorisation of a project to the publication of its summary. We have complained about this to the Home Office and are pleased to say they are considering the possibility of publishing quarterly. We also found that most countries, including the UK, grouped many summaries into one PDF file, making it nearly impossible to find information within the document.
Our review closely inspected the quality of 300 German and 300 UK summaries from 2013-2014, to determine how complete the report in the “adverse effects” sections were. However, our review found that the level of information contained in both countries was fair to poor. We found that:
- Just 31% of the UK and German summaries gave a clear description of the types of experiments to which animals are subjected.
- Only 41% of the UK and 39% of the German summaries fully describe the adverse effects that animals may experience.
- 35% of UK summaries, and 15% of German summaries, fail to note the severity of the experiment – mild, moderate or severe.
- The majority of the summaries from both countries give no indication as to the frequency of intervention (e.g. number of surgeries or injections involved), or the duration over which the animals are experimented on.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, likely benefits of the project were often exaggerated and the application of the 3Rs was often so vague as to be meaningless, or the questions were frequently misunderstood.
Encouragingly, the European Commission has already circulated our analysis to all national regulators. We hope this has an impact, so that the European public can finally have all the facts for an informed debate on animal experiments and the levels of suffering involved.
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Summary of the review