Is the use of animals in science experiments an outdated research model? That is the question that the UKC animal rights activists put to the University of Kent last month.
Students from the Animal Rights Committee and Animal Justice Project stood outside of the Jarman Plaza in fully black clothing, to demonstrate against the University’s use of animals in scientific tests and experiments.
Security was heightened around Stacey and Ingram buildings during the protest, with campus security being placed at the doors and students advised by email to bring their student IDs if they required access to the buildings.
The march comes after a Freedom of Information request revealed that more animals were being experimented on by the University. Figures show that in 2017, 476 mice were used for research purposes, compared to 76 in 2016.
Of the 476 mice used in regulated procedures during 2017 at the University, 170 of these mice were used within the School of Biosciences. At present it is not clear in which departments the remaining 306 mice were used.
Claire Palmer, of the Animal Justice Project, stated: “one of our questions to Kent University is, can they tell us, can they justify, the huge increase in mouse use?”
“We do know from our own research that they are doing work on circadian rhythms; we know they are breeding transgenic mice and we know that they are causing injuries to mice as well.”
Further concerns were also expressed that the University was planning to begin research on rats in the future.
Statistics on Scientific Procedures on Living Animals in Great Britain from the Home Office revealed that in 2016, 1,215,921 of experimental procedures carried out in the UK were performed on mice, which is 72.8% of all procedures. The report for 2017 has yet to be released.
Criticisms have been raised about the University’s lack of communication between themselves and student groups, with the UKC Animal Rights Committee having unsuccessfully requested talks with the University since September 2017.
When asked what the University could do to improve their openness on the use of animal experiments, the group said that they could sign the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, with institutions such as the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK already signed to the concordat. They also expressed a wish for the University to have a debate with Dr André Ménache, a veterinarian who provides scientific advice to multiple animal rights groups.
Sarah Reed, the Science Support Manager for the School of Biosciences, told InQuire that: “Some animals are used in the study of circadian rhythms, and also to investigate how sperm determine sex-ratio, a study that we hope will, eventually, lead to a significant reduction in culling and wastage of animals in farming. Yes, some of the reported “experiments” refer to the breeding of genetically-altered animals (these animals show NO adverse effects as a result and are only classed as experimental because the law requires it). All the animal use by Kent is classed as ‘Mild’ or ‘Sub-threshold’.”
According to advisory notes on recording and reporting the severity of regulated procedures from the Home Office, mild procedures are: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience short-term mild pain, suffering, or distress, as well as procedures with no significant impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.
Where the classification of mild pain is equated to that of the pain caused by a conventional injection. The definition for sub-threshold severity procedures is as follows: “It is possible that procedures authorised under a project licence could result in below threshold severity. These will be few, but will occur when it was considered that a procedure might have caused above-threshold pain or suffering, but in retrospect this did not occur for some or all of the animals involved.
“Examples will be the breeding of genetically altered animals under project licence authority but without a harmful phenotype or dosing with a compound in feed where the animals ate normally and suffered no consequences of being dosed.” – this is where the law requires genetically-altered animals to be classified, where the genetic alteration does not result in harm to the animal.”