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.
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.
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.
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