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Comment: The Ethics of Research Involving Animals: The Report of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, May 2005


Michael Balls

In 2003, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics stablished Working Party to examine and clarify the complex ethical issues raised by research involving animals, as licensed in the UK by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, and regulated in the European Union by the national laws of the Member States, in line with the provisions of Directive 86/609/EEC. The Working Party’s 335-page report was published on 25 May 2005,1 when a mere glance showed that it was a very important and far-reaching analysis of the situation. Partly because Robert Combes, Director of FRAME, was a member of the Working Party, and partly to resist the natural temptation faced by all organisations with a vested interest in this controversial subject — to commission an independent review from somebody likely to see the report from their own organisation’s point of view — I decided to ask four different individuals each to provide 3000–4000 words from their own perspective. I was delighted when all four of those I approached agreed to do so, and ATLA can now offer comments on the Working Party’s report from: William Russell, author with Rex Burch of The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique; Simon Festing and Tara Patel, on behalf of the Research Defence Society; Coenraad Hendriksen, a veterinarian with day-to-day responsibility for laboratory animal welfare and use, and with an international reputation for commitment to the Three Rs; and David Thomas, Legal Consultant to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. All four of these reviews fully live up to my expectations, and they could even be said to represent a useful complement to the Working Party report itself. There is much that could be said about them, but I will resist that temptation, just as I earlier resisted the temptation to review the Working Party’s report myself … Nevertheless, ATLA would welcome any further comments on the Working Party report or on these four reviews.