Testing Where Students Draw the Line on Animal Experimentation

Members of Animal Justice Project (AJP) gathered outside the Parkinson Steps on Tuesday 26th February in protest against the University of Leeds’ use of animals in experiments. Wearing surgical masks and holding laptops showing emotive footage of animal experimentation, the protesters stood with placards asking students “where do you draw the line?”

Publicised as a ‘Lifeline’ event, the protest aimed to inform students about the extent of animal experimentation at their university. AJP have published figures suggesting that, in 2017 alone, almost 23,000 animals were used in experiments at the University of Leeds, including 21,616 mice, 593 rats, 358 pigs, 156 birds and 2 rabbits. Between 2007 and 2017, the University is reported to have used 210,103 animals for experimental research under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

While these figures may surprise students, Leeds pales in comparison to statistics at other universities. In 2017 alone, the University of Oxford used 236,429 animals in experiments, while the University of Edinburgh used 225,366.

The international pressure group has also told The Gryphon that it has filed a complaint to the Information Commissioner against the University of Leeds, for allegedly failing to respond to a freedom of information request within the legally required 20 working days. The Gryphon understands that the request was asking for the figures on animals used in experiments in 2018.

In response to the protests, a university spokesperson said:

“The University carries out research using animals to improve the health and welfare of human beings, and of animals. We use animals only when there are no alternatives, and are firmly committed to the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in research and to publishing information about animal welfare at Leeds.

“It is simply not true to suggest that the University failed to reply appropriately to the freedom of information request from the Animal Justice Project. We responded in January and within the required timeframe. We provided the details they requested about the work of our Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Committee and explained that the number and species of animals used during 2018 would be published on our website in February, which they were. We are unaware of any subsequent complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Claire Palmer, founder of AJP told The Gryphon: 

“Decades of systematic reviews and meta-studies overwhelmingly show that animal experiments are unreliable, inaccurate, poorly-conducted, and are in fact a hindrance to real scientific progress. Leeds University is not only failing to provide the information they are required to give us under UK legislation, our own research shows a shocking array of repetitive, pointless and cruel experiment on rodents. 

“We had a hugely successful day today with over 20 activists joining together to inform students about animal experiments inside Leeds University, and encourage them to turn their back on animal cruelty!”

Students were split in their opinion towards the protest. While some praised the group’s bold approach, others questioned the ethics of using such emotive imagery.

Leo Kim

Images: Robbie Cairns