Comment: Home Office Licence Abstracts — An Assessment
Barry Phillips and Maggy Jennings
Since late in 2004, brief abstracts of projects licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 have been published on the Home Office website. These are produced by the Project Licence Holders, and their publication is seen by the Home Office as contributing to greater openness and to greater public understanding of the use of animals in science, and how it is regulated. Here, we assess the value of the database for this purpose, based on an examination of the 1400 abstracts published up to January 2008. The abstracts are generally strong on justification, but often very poor at describing the likely effects on the animals used. In many cases, they lack basic information on the procedures applied, and the numbers, and even the species, of animals involved. A significant number of projects lack abstracts altogether. In order to ensure that the database gives a complete and balanced picture of animal use in research, we consider that it should be mandatory to submit an abstract, which should include at least the species and numbers of animals used, the adverse effects they are likely to experience, and the severity limits assigned to the procedures applied to them. The value of the database would also be improved greatly, if it were more readily searchable, at least by species, level of severity, and broad area of research.