Animal testing began at Oxford University earlier this month in a new £18m Biomedical Sciences building after years of protest about the construction of the animal laboratory. The biomedical building seeks to re-house research animals from various older sites across the university into the new facility, which, according to the university, exceeds Home Office regulations and sets a “gold standard for animal care.”

Work began on the building in 2004 yet, amid protests and alleged intimidation, the construction was suspended for several months while the university successfully sought a high court injunction against animal rights activists. With work resuming in 2005 the building has opened now almost two years behind schedule, yet the building in not expected to be fully operational until mid-2009.

Professor Tony Monaco, pro-vice chancellor for planning and resources, told The Telegraph that “without this [disruption] the facility would have been completed on time and on budget”, suggesting the final cost of the facility to have significantly exceeded its £18m budget. The university spent £4.5m in 2007 on security for the facility and, with the building still remaining behind barriers and barbed wire, there is concern as to how to secure the building in future.

Oxford Professor Rodney Phillips, chairman of a university ethics committee, stated that the university was actively reducing its reliance upon animal testing and, briefing students about the laboratory, he stated “If we had to use no animals in research from tomorrow, this division at Oxford will be glad. The day we can close it all down, that will be wonderful”.

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  • I disagree that animals are used at our disposal to be exploited manipulated for mans own use.I have researched vivisection for 30 years and most of the suffering was preventable and unnecessary. Most diseases have already been investigated and treated.There is minimal need to repeat inducing abnormalities into healthy innocent animals. From an ethical and moral perspective I believe strict and stringent control should aply and prioritize on the procedures used. Sincerely Christine Carrales.

  • I disagree with Christine.

    Animal testing is very important part of biomedical scientific research. It allows, for example, the reactions of new drugs to be experienced, studied and understood before they reach stages which involve humans – this minimises the potentially dangerous effect on humans. Having worked in animal labs, I can assure you that the quality of care provided to the animals used in testing is FAR higher than I imagine most domestic pets experience, and the building of this new centre in Oxford goes to show that the scientific community is committed to upgrading facilities both for the scientists’ and animals’ benefit.

    As for researching vivisection for 30 years, that’s all very well, but from what perspective were you researching? An anti-vivisection perspective? When researching it is always very easy to find the results you want to.

    Working medically I would also like to knock down Christine’s claim that ” Most diseases have already been investigated and treated.” This is utter rubbish. While we have a lot of knowledge about a lot of diseases, if you pick up any medical textbook there is an overwhelming number of conditions which say “cause unknown”, “it is thought to be due to one of the following, but there is no evidence”, “treatment is for symptoms”, “there is no available treatment”, “X drug is frequently given, but there is no evidence for this yet”.

    Most diseases and their presentations are documented, yes, but don’t think that that means that they are all either understood OR treatable – these are very different things indeed.

    Cheers, Nick.

  • I don’t have much faith in the animal testing model. Working in animal labs as you have, Nick, you are probably aware of the many medicines that have been passed as safe after animal tests, only to have very different effects on humans, ranging from no effect to the disastrous. Animals are in some ways significantly physiologically different to humans.

    There are alternatives – clinical studies, cell culture studies, computer simulations and many others, and that for example there are very realistic synthetic torsos available for dissection (better than cutting open a pig I’d imagine).

    As for the animals being treated better than many domesticated animals, I don’t think that you can make such a sweeping statement without backing it up. Yes people can be cruel to pets but not to many people implant metal rods their pets’ heads, expose them to radiation or force them to inhale smoke.