The government has today (May 1) opened a public consultation on Section 24, the notorious secrecy clause that has long been used to prevent even the most basic information about animal experiments from being released.

The consultation follows years of lobbying by animal protection groups including Animal Aid. This has involved regular meetings with government ministers and senior civil servants at the Home Office unit responsible for licensing animal experiments.

As well as calling for a repeal of the secrecy clause, we have fought hard to be allowed to view applications to conduct animal experiments before they are granted, in order to provide advice on alternative methods that could replace the use of animals, and point out scientific problems with the research. While this request has been categorically refused, we will continue to make the case as to why these applications urgently need to be subjected to outside scrutiny, as well as pressing for a repeal of the secrecy clause.

The removal of section 24 would represent an important step forward, but only if it is not replaced with other mechanisms to restrict openness. Some of the options offered in the government’s consultation document are profoundly troubling.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

‘The public, which funds a great deal of vivisection through its taxes and charitable donations, has a right to know what is happening behind the closed doors of laboratories. While the removal of the notorious secrecy clause could represent a great step forward, it is vitally important that applications to perform animal experiments are subjected to critical scrutiny before they are granted, not once animals have already suffered and died in futile experiments.’

The consultation will last six weeks, and we will be reviewing it carefully and submitting our response. We will also soon be producing advice for anyone who would like to participate in the consultation. So please keep checking our website and social media pages for more information.