The BUAV – More Unsubstantiated Claims, Spies and Inspection Reports

This article was originally posted on 16 March 2015. On 4 June 2015 we received representation from Cruelty Free International (CFI) asking us to reconsider some of the wording. On 2nd December 2015, at a Judicial Review, CFI and the Home Office agreed to make two, small clarifications to an ASRU report. Having considered all of CFI’s comments, the Judicial Review, and reflected upon the article, we have amended these and reposted them as they appear below.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) is a UK anti-vivisection group with a history of infiltrations into labs and of making allegations  which do not always stand up to scrutiny of investigations of the Government inspectors (The Animals in Science Regulation Unit; ASRU). A newly published report from a government investigation reveals just how far the BUAV bent the truth when they made a number of false allegations against the University of Cambridge last year.

Fool Me Twice

In October, 2014, we wrote about how two separate investigations by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU; the Government’s inspection unit) found allegations by the BUAV to be mostly groundless. In both cases the allegations had followed an infiltration by a BUAV activist.

The first report investigated the BUAV’s allegations against Imperial College London. This was made via a 71 page submission to the Home Office and accompanying video footage that together contained over 180 “events which might have formed the basis for an allegation of non-compliance” :

Twenty-one potential cases of non-compliance were identified and 18 were formally investigated. Of these, all were found to be unsubstantiated apart from five formal non-compliance cases which have been completed – one category A and four Category B.

Category B means that while there may have been “some animal welfare implications“, it “[did] not involve significant, avoidable or unnecessary pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm“, there was “no evidence of intent to subvert the controls of ASPA“. Typically a category B non-compliance case results in a written reprimand and individuals involved may require additional training.

A second ASRU report into BUAV allegations against a pharmaceutical company conducting tests on veterinary medicines found:

No non-compliance with authorised programmes of work was detected apart from two minor issues with no welfare implications.
[…]
Our detailed investigations and review of available records and other evidence, does not support the allegations in the investigation report.

So twice last year the BUAV has been found  making unsubstantiated claims that are likely to have painted a misleading picture about the reality of conditions within labs.

Third Time Lucky?

In the post “The BUAV – Unsubstantiated Claims, Spies and Videotapes” we discussed an infiltration by the BUAV at Cambridge University. The infiltration and subsequent “expose” regarded research on sheep into Huntington’s and Batten’s disease. The allegations made were that there was “…distressing animal suffering, unlawful regulation by the Home Office, inadequate care of animals and inadequate enforcement by the inspectorate”. The 32-page report by the BUAV was supplemented by a four-and-a-half minute edited video (put together from hours and hours of footage by the infiltrator) but when ASRU officials wrote to them requesting further video footage they might have, the BUAV replied that “there was nothing further they wished to share with ASRU”. One guesses hours of footage of Cambridge University researchers abiding by the laws and regulations was not in BUAV’s interest to share. It also suggests that the BUAV’s aim is not to address animal welfare issues at Cambridge, but to score points in their stated effort to “end all animal testing”. This month ASRU released their report into the allegations.

A sheep with Batten’s involved in the study at the University of Cambridge (Image credit: University of Cambridge)

Cambridge had previously provided a strong rebuttal of each the claims made by the BUAV. These claims appear to be a mix of exaggerated information and flatly false information. For instance Cambridge noted:

It is alleged that a lamb had to be euthanized at a UK airport after becoming sick during transit from New Zealand. One of the lambs did appear disorientated on arrival in London, but was cleared by the Veterinary surgeon as being fit to continue his travels. No adverse effects were seen in any of the animals on arrival in Cambridge a few hours later.

ASRU’s report is equally clear about this claim [p.13]:

In summary, we conclude that this allegation is simply untrue in relation to the sheep imported for the Project Licence holder’s research. No animals required euthanasia or were found dead on arrival a Heathrow Airport.

And some of their allegations appear to be of the BUAV’s own making. According to the University of Cambridge’s report:

We are careful to avoid causing stress to the Batten’s disease sheep. As their disease develops, they become confused and can become agitated, particularly when approached by unfamiliar people or surroundings. Thus the animal care team is careful not to isolate any sheep from its flock-mates, allow interaction with strangers, or make sudden or unnecessary changes to their routines. It appears that the BUAV infiltrator not only disrupted their routines in the making of the undercover videos, but also isolated the animals. This will have made the sheep appear more agitated than they are when under routine care.

ASRU have added that [p.13]:

The Establishment has mechanisms in place for whistle-blowing, and it is of note that no animal welfare concerns had been raised by any staff at the Establishment, including the animal rights organisation’s infiltrator…

A similar comment was also made in the ASRU report into the Imperial allegations.

The conclusion to the ASRU report into the Cambridge infiltration makes damning reading for anyone who believed in the integrity of the BUAV.

Our detailed investigations, and review of available records and other evidence to do not support any of the allegations made by the animal rights organisation
[…]
None of these allegations has been substantiated nor has any allegation given us further cause for concern with regard to compliance with the requirements of the legislation at this Establishment.

Sound familiar? Once again the inspection reports have found the BUAV spinning the facts.

One additional paragraph in the ASRU report on the University of Cambridge gives an insight into what the inspectors really thought about the BUAV’s allegations:

A small number of the allegations were based on hearsay evidence and we can neither confirm nor deny these. However given the overall lack of substance where relevant evidence was to be found we do not consider it likely that any of these other allegations would be substantiated.

Ouch!

The BUAV

Of the £1.3 million that BUAV spent in 2014 (not including money spent by their three associate companies, Animal Properties, BUAV Charitable Trust and Cruelty Free International), around £200,000 was spent on “Investigations”. Any curious journalist should be asking the BUAV whether they were paying these infiltrators, how much these payments were, and what they expected (video wise) from their employees.

BUAV investigations expenditure 2011-14

To remind people of what we have said before. These are not casual whistle blowers, but people who are working at animal research facilities with the express intention of creating newsworthy videotapes. Be it a school, a hospital, a factory or a restaurant, there are few businesses for which you could not create a cleverly edited 5 minute shock video having secretly filmed for hundreds of hours.

One has to wonder how many BUAV infiltrators are in labs around the UK. Moreover, one wonders, how many BUAV infiltration videos were never publicised due to the lack of newsworthy footage (even after clever editing)?

Speaking of Research

8 responses to “The BUAV – More Unsubstantiated Claims, Spies and Inspection Reports

  1. You can read for yourself the allegations made by buav regarding imperial college london at http://licensedtokill.buav.org/animal-suffering

    These allegations were all in the report handed to the Government’s inspection unit, but were found not to constitute a breach of the law. It was not argued as far as I can tell that the allegations were untrue, merely that the suffering they describe is seen under law as an acceptable level of suffering. Reading through the allegations, I find it pretty shocking that these things are not illegal.

    • In the Imperial infiltration, ASRU found:

      “Twenty-one potential cases of non-compliance were identified and 18 were formally investigated. Of these, all were found to be unsubstantiated apart from five formal non-compliance cases which have been completed – one category A and four Category B.”

      [edited]

  2. I agree, it’s just animal rights extremists trying to go to any lengths to mislead the public on the MANY benefits of animal research!

    Hope they get arrested for trespassing + harrassment as they obviously weren’t meant to be there in the 1st place! All the evidence always proves those animal rights activists wrong anyway! :)

  3. Juan Carlos Marvizon

    I think is about time that these infiltrators get charged for the crime they commit: cruelty to animals. When they find no wrongdoing from the scientists, they distress the animals on purpose so that then they can film them. Animal care in research labs is based on the premise that everybody involved will do their job. When somebody gets paid on the side to film animals getting distressed, this produces a conflict of interest and an incentive to do the animals harm. Thus, the infiltrator is in fact committing a number of crimes (animal cruelty, double pay, conflict of interest) that should be investigated by law enforcement.

  4. Please elaborate on what you consider to be “UNavoidable suffering”?

    • Not my words – but the words of the inspectors. There will always be some suffering associated with animal research – even if it’s just stress from handling. Unavoidable suffering would be anything above the minimum suffering required to conduct the experiment.

  5. If, as you say, all is well with the system, how is it that there are ANY moments of “horrific” (your words) images available to be recorded? Ah yes: the ‘infiltrator’ stresses the animals out by wielding? a HIDDEN camera, and immediately the animals become traumatized and their lacerations, bruises and affixation to stereotaxic devices spontaneously appear….. What an absolutely enchanted world your audience must live in! Bless you for providing such a portal!

    • Anne, read the article. Cambridge said:
      We are careful to avoid causing stress to the Batten’s disease sheep. As their disease develops, they become confused and can become agitated, particularly when approached by unfamiliar people or surroundings. Thus the animal care team is careful not to isolate any sheep from its flock-mates, allow interaction with strangers, or make sudden or unnecessary changes to their routines. It appears that the BUAV infiltrator not only disrupted their routines in the making of the undercover videos, but also isolated the animals. This will have made the sheep appear more agitated than they are when under routine care.

      Batten’s sheep are naturally prone to be distressed when removed from their flock. The infiltrator stressed the sheep by doing just that. What lacerations and bruising are you referring to? The report was clear: “We found no evidence of animals being subjected to avoidable suffering.”