A damming report published today by The Animals in Science Committee (ASC), a government advisory body, following an undercover investigation by the BUAV, finds Imperial College London breached its certificate of designation and establishment licence and concludes that there was ‘a systematic pattern of infringements, of which the ASC notes that at least two involved tangible welfare costs…’
It further recommends that ‘the Minister should consider whether he can continue to have confidence in the current Establishment Licence Holder at Imperial College London retaining this role’.
The ASC report concludes: 'The regime at ICL clearly fell short of the standard required by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). The HOI investigation identified a pattern of infringements that reflected underlying systematic failings...in particular, failings of culture and communications impeded the promotion of best practice and the 3Rs, whilst NACWOs and biomedical staff were insufficiently involved in procedures and post-procedure recovery. This was symptomatic of a deeper failure of leadership, giving rise to, and in turn compounded by, an inadequately-resourced Biomedical Services senior management team.’
The ASC was asked to draw up advice to the Home Office Minister following allegations of non-compliance and poor practice by the BUAV. The advice follows a Home Office Inspectorate’s report (which has not been made public) and an earlier report (The Brown Report), commissioned by Imperial College and published in December 2013 which had already detailed a number of systematic failures at the establishment and concluded Imperial College ‘…lacks adequate leadership, management, operational, training, supervisory and ethical review systems to support high standards in animal use and welfare.’
The Home Office Inspectors identified problems as early as 2012, but in 2013 they were still awaiting a meeting to discuss the issues when the findings of the BUAV investigation were released.
Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of the BUAV stated: ‘The conclusions of this report will have major ramifications for Imperial College as well as the rest of the research industry. If such criticisms can be levelled at one of the world’s leading universities, then it is inevitable that similar issues arise in research establishments all over the country. Significantly, only the BUAV investigation accelerated action despite ‘a pattern of concerns’ having been identified by the Home Office Inspectorate as early as 2012.’
However, a number of questions remain unanswered. Who, for example, is to be held accountable for the avoidable suffering and distress caused to the thousands of animals in the care of at Imperial College, over and above the high level of suffering caused by the experiments themselves?'
We now expect strong action to be taken against Imperial College for its failings.
Furthermore, the public will not understand that despite constant reassurances from the Government that the UK has the best regulation in the world, a university can be allowed to fall short of best practice for so long without action taken by the Home Office. We also call on the Home Office to release the full report so the public is aware of all the facts.’
According to the ASC report, the Home Office investigation upheld a number of the allegations of infringements made by the BUAV. The Home Office report concludes:
'a proportion of licensees were unfamiliar with and had poor working knowledge of the conditions attached to their licences.’
'A systematic pattern of infringements, of which the ASC notes that at least two involved tangible welfare costs and there is no reason to believe that this was confined solely to the six-month period covered by the third-party investigation.'
The Home Office Report further concluded:'non-compliances were of a persistent nature including on-going instances after April 2013 and all of these could broadly be traced back to failings in the management structures.'
'It also concludes that there was 'a widespread poor culture of care' and a 'poor uptake of refinements by researchers.'