On 14 May a new Concordat on Openness in Animal Research in the UK was launched, to which more than 70 organisations involved with biosciences in the UK have signed up. The Concordat commits its signatories to enhance their openness and communication about their use of animals in research. This concordat reflects some of the recommendations on transparency that were made in the Council’s 2005 report The ethics of research involving animals.

Specifically, the Council recommended that clearer information ought to be provided about how many animals experience pain, suffering and distress, and for how long, through information provided in Annual Statistics on the use of Animals in Research. We also suggested that retrospective information about the level of suffering that animals have undergone during procedures should be made publicly available. We therefore welcome the introduction of this Concordat which aims to provide the public with clear and honest information on the benefits of the research to humans and animals, and the harms to the animals used in research.

The Concordat sets out four key commitments:
  1. We will be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research

  2. We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals

  3. We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals

  4. We will report on progress annually and share our experiences

The Concordat also outlines practical steps that could be taken by signatories to address these commitments, but states that “Exactly how the Commitments are fulfilled will differ between organisations depending upon their operation and purpose, their capacity and their different legal obligations.”

This Concordat comes after publication in February of a cross-departmental Government Delivery Plan Working to reduce the use of animals in scientific research which stipulates that retrospective reporting of the “Actual Severity” of all scientific procedures on protected animals should be introduced by 2015, in order to enable better understanding of the levels of overall animal suffering. Read more about how Council views were reflected in the Government Delivery Plan.

The Council also notes that the Home Office currently have an open consultation to review Section 24 of the Animals (Procedures Act) with the objective of increasing openness and transparency to assist public understanding of the use of animals in scientific procedures.

Find out more about the Council’s work on the ethics of research involving animals.