Tribunal rules UK government unlawfully withheld details of animal experiments

The Government has been unlawfully withholding the details of the animal experiments it licenses in the UK, according to a key ruling from the Information Tribunal.

The case was brought by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) after the Home Office refused to reveal basic information about animal experiment licences the organisation had applied for under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). It attempted to argue that only the information which researchers applying for such licences chose to publish in summaries could be released.

The basic information asked for by the BUAV covers the purpose of the experiment, what is to be done to the animals, how the applicant intended to limit animal suffering and, crucially, how they proved it was essential they used animals rather than alternatives in their proposed experiments.

The BUAV is not and has never been interested in information that identifies who is or was involved or where the research is or has taken place. The decision means that far more information about what is done to lab animals and for what purpose - and about consideration of non-animal alternatives - will have to be disclosed by the Government.

The cover-up of this information prevents informed public debate about the controversial area of animal experiments and, as the Home Office candidly accepted at the hearing, it means the Government cannot be held to account.

The ruling is a key victory in the BUAV’s campaign to get the Government to abide by the FOI law and be open and transparent about animal experiments. It follows victory in the judicial review it brought against the Government last year when a High Court Judge ruled the Government had been unlawfully licensing animal experiments at Cambridge University.

Campaigners win key animal test freedom of information court victory: Tribunal rules Government’s cover-up of animal experiment information is against law (, 30 January 2008)