HL Deb 27 January 1970 vol 307 cc339-76

6.5 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government:

  1. 1. When they propose to introduce legislation to implement the Littlewood Report;
  2. 2. What information they now have as to the export of animals for research and whether they will introduce legislation at an early date to control the export of animals for research so as to restrict the export to countries where the law against cruelty to animals is equivalent to our own.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the questions which I am asking Her Majesty's Government are really two aspects of the same subject: the use of animals for experiment and research, and the avoidance of pain. I am glad that this matter, although it is raised only in the form of a Question, has aroused a certain amount of interest in this House, and it is quite understandable since this House is peculiarly concerned with the welfare of animals. It has been shown to be so over a long period of years, and I hope that this concern will long continue.

The first part of my Question is an inquiry as to whether, and when, the Government propose to implement the Littlewood Report, which is concerned entirely with animals used for research in this country. The second part of the Question relates to the export of such animals. To deal with the first part, a Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of the late Sir Sydney Littlewood was set up by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, on May 23, 1963, when he was Home Secretary. It was a result of a considerable amount of pres-sure from animal lovers and those concerned with this subject. The purpose of the Committee was, quite simply, to consider the present control over experiments on living animals, and to consider the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, how it was working after nearly a century and what changes in that Act or in its administration were desirable. Surprisingly, the Act of 1876 was a most enlightened one. It was the result of many years of pressure, and I think it can be regarded as one of the best Acts of the second half of the nineteenth century. But there have been enormous developments since 1876 in the use of animals in research and for experiment.

When the Act was first in force, under 1,000 experiments on animals were carried out each year. In 1906 the number had risen to some 3,800. To-day the number has grown to approximately 5 million. As medical knowledge and experience have developed, and the use of drugs for curative and even, we now learn, for sterilisation purposes has become commonplace, it has been thought necessary to test drugs more and more on appropriate animals. I am not one of those who complain about the use of animals for this purpose, but there is a very strong body of opinion in this country which holds that the use of animals for experiment is unnecessary and cruel, and that the same objects could be achieved in some other way.

For the purpose of this discussion I am prepared, without prejudice, to accept the fact that animals are necessary for the purpose of carrying out research. My sole interest in this matter is the avoidance of pain, particularly acute pain, following these experiments, and to see that where acute pain is unavoidable an end is put to the life of the animal as speedily and as painlessly as possible, once the experiment has been completed. I need not enlarge on this aspect of the matter because I am sure that every Member of this House agrees with these objectives. Nevertheless, with the passage of time and the immense growth in the number of experiments, to which I have just referred, defects and inadequacies in the Act have become manifest, and it must be made to fit in with the tremendous developments which have been made and with present-day conditions. It was for that reason that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, decided to set up the Littlewood Committee.

At this stage I should like to put in a word about the implementation of the Reports of Select Committees and Committees generally. As I have said, the Littlewood Committee were appointed in May, 1963. They published their Report after deliberations which lasted for nearly two years. They saw a large number of witnesses, professional and scientific; representatives of public bodies concerned with the welfare of animals; scientific organisations and laymen. They finally completed their Report to the Minister on February 19, 1965—five years ago. The Report is a monumental piece of work. It contains 87 recommendations, of which more than half would require legislation for their implementation and the remainder of which could be dealt with administratively.

It is most discouraging to anybody who is asked to serve on a Committee of this kind, and who devotes some years of his life to it, to find at the end of the day, when the Report is eventually submitted, that it is ignored by the Government. No wonder there is a certain amount of cynicism about these Committees! They are regarded in many quarters—and perhaps not unjustifiably— not as a method of giving the Government information, following a detailed investigation, in order that they may take appropriate action, but merely as a way of shelving a problem which has become somewhat inconvenient. I recognise that the Report was initiated by the previous Government, but this is not a Party matter, and I deplore the fact that it has taken so long, without result—five years—as I deplore, speaking generally, the frequent ignoring of these Reports once they are made. It is certainly no inducement to anybody to serve on such a Committee to know that as likely as not all the work he puts into it may well prove abortive.

I do not wish to go into the Littlewood Report in any detail. There has been no amending legislation to the 1876 Act since it was first passed. There was an inquiry in 1912, but no specific action was taken. It is alleged that there is a certain amount of duplication about these experiments, and that they could be curtailed. This is one of the points to which the Report draws attention; but I do not wish to express any view on this. Scientific and technical knowledge and skill have increased so much since 1876 that there is obviously a need, as the Littlewood Committee recommend, for a substantial amendment of the Act to make provision for the entirely new conditions and circumstances in which experiments are being carried out to-day.

The matter of the Report has been raised in another place from time to time, and I would refer particularly to an Answer given by Miss Alice Bacon to a. Question on November 17, 1966. She admitted that there was considerable sympathy in all parts of the House for a Bill to deal with this matter. She said that inquiries were then being made— this was over three years ago—of 16 organisations, that 10 had submitted views, and so on. She implied that as soon as all the replies had come in she would deal with this matter. As I say, that was over three years ago. Surely there has been ample time for the Government to act.

We all recognise the value of these experiments to mankind, and even to animals themselves, and nothing I have said should be regarded as in any way hostile to the practice of conducting, humanely, experiments on animals—although it may be as well to make it abundantly clear that there is no alternative to carrying out these experiments. I hope that the Government will be able to-day to give a definite assurance that early action involving legislation and administration will be taken in carrying the Report into effect.

Now I come to the second part of the Question; namely, whether the Government will introduce legislation at an early date to control the export of animals for research so as to ensure that these animals are not exported for research to countries where there is no provision for ensuring the avoidance of pain, both during and after the experiments. In this country we are assured that an animal does not suffer pain during an experiment by its being rendered unconscious during the experiment, either by the use of anæsthetics or by some other means; and where the animal on recovery is suffering acute pain, there is a requirement in the 1876 Act that the animal should be put to death.

These are very strict requirements, and there is a body of inspectors appointed by the Home Office to ensure that, so far as possible, they are strictly adhered to. Indeed, the Littlewood Committee's Report recommends certain ways of strengthening these safeguards. Nevertheless, we appear to be indifferent to the fate of these animals once they are exported. No licence is required for the export of animals for research. We do not even know how many are exported; and so far the Government have taken no steps to ascertain the number or any information about the fate of these animals. But we do know that the number is very considerable and that it is growing. We also know that a number of breeding establishments have been set up for the express purpose of providing animals for export and that this is a growing business. We further know that in a number of countries these experiments are conducted in a very inhumane way.

The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, when introducing his Bill some time ago, referred to certain pictures of animals treated in a very cruel way indeed. When the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, came to reply he rather made light of it by saying that these are not animals which have been imported into the country; that they are their own animals. But as I understood the noble Viscount, the point of referring to it at all was not to show that these are animals which are being exported from this country but to indicate the way in which that particular country regards animals which are being used for research. I think he made his case. Some countries are better than others; but few have legislation corresponding with the 1876 Act in this country.

When the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, introduced his Bill there were a number of very powerful speeches, particularly one by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, speaking for the Home Office. Every speaker expressed his sympathy with the purposes for which the Bill was introduced; but almost every speaker also pointed out the impracticability of its terms, and eventually the noble Viscount, to my regret, with-drew the Bill. I should have liked to see it get a Second Reading and go into Committee and then to see what we could have made of it; but he thought discretion the better part of valour and withdrew the Bill.


My Lords, was not the Bill put to the Question and the Second Reading lost?


My Lords, may I intervene? I withdrew the Bill because it was obvious that the opposition was so great.


My Lords, I beg the noble Viscount's pardon.


My Lords, I should like to comment on that point. The opposition among those who spoke was great; but I should have hoped that if the view of the House as a whole had been tested the result might have been different. But these are tactics; I do not blame the noble Viscount.


My Lords, it was rather a thin Chamber; there were very few people in the Library. My information was that it would have been rather a waste of time to proceed.


My Lords, probably the noble Viscount was right.

I was saying that in another place several Bills have been introduced but none of them, mostly for lack of time, has been able to get a Second Reading. I do not wish to minimise the great difficulties which would face such a measure as that introduced by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, or one that I had in mind to introduce. These difficulties were fully set out in speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and by other noble Lords in this House who spoke with great authority. The noble Viscount's Bill placed on the exporter the onus of deciding whether the country to which he desired to send his animals had legislation corresponding with our own. I recognise that this was too great a burden on the exporter; and I also realise the possibilities of avoidance. As I have said, I have myself drafted a Bill which would have required a licence from the Home Office before any animal could be exported for experimental research. It would have been for the Home Office itself to decide what were the conditions in the country to which the export was proposed. I admit that this, too, would have been somewhat invidious.

There are very few countries which have any legislation at all on the subject and it might have meant that in practice no animal would be exported for research and experiment. I certainly do not wish to go so far as that. I realise that there is an important interchange of trade, if I may so call it, of animals for research. Possibly, if we were to introduce a measure as drastic as that, we should suffer by not getting certain animals that we require for our own research. There are countries where, although there is no legislation on the subject, the practice is very similar to our own. I should not wish to bar the export of animals to those countries. But where it is notoriously evident that there is no such legislation or practice, then we ought to be firm in refusing permission for the export of such animals to those countries until we are satisfied that the conditions are suitable. At any rate, there should be an obligation to obtain a licence to export to a specified consignee and the Home Office should satisfy itself as to the bona fides and suitability of the con- ditions under which the animal would be dealt with.

A further problem has now arisen in connection with the breeding of animals that will, I am sure, accentuate the difficulties which already exist. We are all concerned that, as laid down in the Act of 1876, these experiments should be conducted with the minimum of pain for the animal. It is ironic that while we are genuinely concerned with what happens to them in this country, we appear to be indifferent when these animals are sent abroad. While I recognise the great difficulties, indeed, the impossibility, of exercising control once the animals leave our shores, I feel that control of a sort ought to be exercised, probably by means of a licence.

I think that that is all that I am in a position to say about the matter. I hope I have not been too dogmatic about this problem. Although in my Question 1 have indicated that the control of exports by the Home Office is a solution, I would not necessarily insist upon that. It may well be that the right thing would be for the Government to sot up a new Commission to look into the question of the export of animals for research and experiment. If they did, I should like to see a Commission with fairly wide terms of reference, including an inquiry as to whether it is really necessary to use animals for this purpose. There is in this country a strong feeling that it would be a good thing to have an authoritative view—I am not expressing an opinion myself—about whether there is no alternative, in the Interests of mankind, to the use of animals for the purpose of experiment and research. This is the question which I beg to put, and I hope that the noble Lady, whom I congratulate on the very important part she is playing this afternoon, will be able to give a satisfactory answer.

6.31 p.m.


My Lords, the main subject of this Unstarred Question is a Report widely acknowledged as most informative and balanced. In addition to his great services to medicine and the law, this is surely a remarkable document for which the late Sir Sydney Littlewood will be gratefully remembered. It is curious that in neither House has the Littlewood Report ever been fully debated. We are, therefore, indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for giving us this opportunity for discussion and to ask Her Majesty's Government their intentions.

At the beginning of his remarks, the noble Lord gave the House some statistics to demonstrate the importance of this matter. On February 18, 1966, just about the time of Miss Alice Bacon's Parliamentary Reply, in a reply to an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the theft of pet animals Mr. Maurice Foley said: I hope, however, that I shall not be out of order in reminding the House that my right honourable friend intends to give very careful consideration to the Departmental Committee's recommendations as soon as he has received views from all of the interested bodies."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; 18/2/66, c. 1800.] The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred to those bodies. Well, my Lords, four years later, and seven years from the time that my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor appointed the Littlewood Committee, the Minister remains silent on this Report.

We on this side of the House have, as you might say, given notice that we are deeply interested in this question. My noble friend Lord Brooke raised the matter on the debate on the gracious Speech at the beginning of this Session. Twice last year the noble Earl, Lord Forteseue, tabled a Question. On the second occasion, November 20 last, it was the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, who told the House that Her Majesty's Government were very sympathetic; that they intended to legislate but could find no guidance in the Report as to the urgency required. I feel that this evening, noble Lords would be grateful to hear in a little more detail where the Government now stand.

Since February 18, 1966, the Minister must have received all the views from the interested bodies to which Mr. Foley referred. What is it that now stands in the way of legislation? As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made clear, whatever the reasons, they will be addressed to those who only wish to see the 1876 Act brought up to date in the best way that the Government can devise; but who also feel that the time is now overdue when the Government should clarify their position in this matter.

Perhaps I may briefly draw the attention of your Lordships to the viewpoint which lay behind the Committee's conviction that animal experiments are a necessity which, however, must continue to be vigilantly controlled by legislation. The latest figures, the 1969 return, show that out of over 5,200,000 experiments nearly 4,600,000 were carried out under Certificate "A" without anaesthetic. One may reasonably suppose—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Platt, may be able to tell us more about it—that these experiments were therefore of (may I say?) a minor kind. The Royal Commissions of 1875 and 1912 both recognised the need for such experiments and paragraph 69 of this Report draws attention to the vital importance of drug testing in "normal and infected animals." Chapter 9 is devoted entirely to a description of acts and codes requiring experiments on animals. Paragraph 71 tells how witnesses repeatedly welcomed the possibility of tests on an isolated organ or tissue, but apparently this is only rarely possible. Let us also in fairness remember that although the Report made certain proposals about improvement of husbandry in premises, paragraph 234 stated specifically: We have seen no foundation whatever for any general suspicion, let alone sharp criticism, of the concern of licensees for their animals. My Lords, for those who feel deeply opposed to all animal experiments—and such people are invariably the kindest and most understanding—perhaps these few points will carry a little weight, especially when it is considered that what seems so detestable could have averted the heartbreak of thalidomide and may one day help to overcome the tragedy of cancer. Yet some people there are who believe deeply that these experiments are cruel in themselves. Surely, everyone would support legislation to minimise animal suffering. May I, therefore, ask the views of the Government on three parts of the Report which, if implemented, could perhaps help to satisfy a wide range of opinion?

Chapter 11, "Pain in animals," makes no fewer than eight main recommendations. What importance do the Government attach to the proposed rewording of the pain condition as proposed by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and dealt with in paragraphs 185 to 188? Clearly it is undesirable to proceed in a piecemeal fashion with this Report. But as the avoidance of pain lies at the very heart of the 1876 Act, and is at the root of so many objections, I wonder whether the noble Baroness can tell us if the Government have reached any conclusion on this important chapter. Secondly, hand in hand with Chapter 11 goes paragraph 297 at the conclusion of Chapter 16, where it is recommended that the Act should apply to experiments in which there is a risk of pain, discomfort or stress or other inteference with the normal well-being of animals; and that the Act should apply to: the use of animals in teaching, training, production, testing and passaging whether or not there is a risk of pain. It is the very fact that animals cannot tell us the extent of their pain, discomfort or suffering which makes many people uneasy about the subject to-day, and if the Government could tell us that paragraph 297 is acceptable and that legislation is going to follow within the foreseeable future, possibly that would go a considerable way to set many fears at rest.

My Lords, Chapter 11 deals specifically with pain, and the acceptance of paragraph 297 would remove doubts about what is and what is not an experiment by widening the scope of legislation. From these two areas of the Report flows a whole host of recommendations contained in Chapters 17, 18 and 19 on general restrictions, licensing and control and usages—perhaps, to the layman, the most informative part of the Report. The vital point in these three chapters, surely, is that Sir Sydney Littlewood and his colleagues were not planning more complicated legislation, but less. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare has described the present licensing system, although it works, as archaic, inconvenient and wholly unrealistic. I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government would agree that this part of the Report could rectify this state of affairs by its common sense proposals on sponsorship and by its proposal that the licence should be the sole document setting out the limits of the holder's authority within the Act.

May I just tack on these questions? Would the Government perhaps reconsider their views on the urgency of legislation, bearing in mind the Committee's wish that the Home Office should issue a code of practice and should be assisted by the Advisory Committee with somewhat greater frequency? The first of these views shows that a document is needed to standardis2 practices and ideas. The second has demonstrated the Committee's apprehension that the public, the Home Office and experimenters should be brought into closer understanding; and many people would hope that the Advisory Committee, with its wide spread of knowledge, could achieve just this. Possibly, the noble Lord, Lord Platt, when he comes to speak, will tell me whether or not this is a fair question.

There are of course many more recommendations with which other noble Lords will perhaps be dealing—such as wastage and the supply of animals, the latter perhaps the most emotive subject for anyone who has ever lost a pet animal. And is it really not possible to put into effect now, without fresh legislation, the Committee's interim recommendation that purchase by laboratories should be only from approved collectors or registered breeders? Have the Government yet taken any action over the final words of the main Report, where the Committee declare that the problems of animal supply should be the subject of an urgent inquiry by the interest concerned? Many of us hope that possibly the noble Baroness will be saying just a word about recruitment and salaries in the inspectorate.

On the second part of the noble Lord's Question, I would identify myself with much of what he has said, except that surely this part of the Question would fall mainly outside the terms of reference of the Littlewood Committee. A full and informed Second Reading debate was provoked by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, with his Export of Animals for Research Bill, on January 30 last; but in that debate there was obviously a difference of opinion on standards overseas. I am really following the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in asking whether Her Majesty's Government have any evidence that the best standards abroad, which I believe are excellent, are not complied with in some places. If so, do the Government believe that no action is possible to protect our exported animals?

I would also ask for reassurance on transport conditions of animals exported. I ask this only in the rather guilty knowledge, as a farmer, that it is all too easy to take the utmost care of animals in one's charge and then to forget that their transport to market should be of a similar standard. It is to be hoped that the Government reply this evening will not echo Lewis Carroll's Bellman: It is excessively awkward to mention it now". For your Lordships will recall the fate which befell the Bellman and his crew: Their quarry softly and silently vanished away. This is a fate which Parliament must not permit with so fine a Report and so important an issue.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, having listened with great interest to the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Belstead, I should like to say this. Having spent many years of my earlier life in Australia, where in the Outback country man's most trusted friends are the horse and the dog, I have all my life loved animals, and when I hear or read about, or see with my own eyes, animals turned out of their homes to wander the streets and be run over, or to finish up in a house for strays and finally be destroyed for want of an owner, my blood boils. And when I think that people can perpetrate these despicable acts, I wonder how we can call ourselves a nation of animal lovers.

There is in this country a moral entity inherent in the methods of research practised under the Care of Animals Act 1876. In vivisection establishments in many countries abroad there is no protecting legislation at all to safeguard animals from severe pain. I should like to quote some figures (of which your Lordships are probably aware) issued by the Home Office on August 12, 1969, relating to experiments performed on animals during 1968. The total of experiments performed during 1968 was over 5 million. The number of persons licensed under the 1876 Act to perform experiments was over 12,000; premises registered for experiments numbered 609; experiments without anæsthetic accounted for 88 per cent. of the total, which comes to 4½ million; experiments carried out under anæsthetic totalled 166 out of 626; experiments carried out in the course of cancer research, 306,352; experiments for the testing of drugs, 1,204,000; and the number of inspectors, 10. These are pretty startling figures. At this point I would strongly urge the Government to do everything they can to ensure that every facility is provided for research workers in this country in order that they can carry out their research programmes without the use of live animals.

I should like to say a few words on the inspectorate which the Home Office sets up for the supervision of experiments. When the 1876 Act came into force, there were something like 300 experiments per annum, and at that time two inspectors were appointed. Now in 1968 we have a figure of over 5 million experiments, with the inspectorate increased from two to 10. An inspector, giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Vivisection, stated: I was not expected to act as a detective. Express instructions were received by him from his superior officer. We can gather from a Question in Parliament a few years ago that much of an inspector's working time is taken up, not in visiting laboratories, but in administrative duties, such as issuing licences and certificates, at Headquarters. I could say a great deal more on vivisection, which I have always been strongly against. In conclusion, with regard to the exporting of animals to foreign vivisection laboratories, I would urge the Government to legislate for a total ban on a great and shameful evil.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express the thanks which I am sure are felt by all noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for asking this Question this evening, and for the manner in which he has dealt with the subject. His interest in and care for animals is well known to us all, and his persistence in returning to any subject relating to their welfare is wholly admirable. We are most grateful to him.

I myself hold what I believe are considered in some quarters rather extreme views on experiments on animals, and I have wearied your Lordships on more than one occasion with my feelings of horror and dismay at the continuing practice of carrying out these loathsome operations. The assurances of eminent scientists and distinguished doctors cut no ice with me at all. Their assurances do nothing to alter my views or to modify my strictures on this unholy activity. But I realise that this is not the occasion on which to pursue once more my condemnation of this whole practice of animal experiments, and my conviction that it is utterly evil to torture animals in the hope of benefiting mankind.

Let me say that I find myself in cordial agreement with the Memorandum by one of the three ladies on the Littlewood Committee, Mrs. Butler, which is to be found at page 201 of the Report, following the Committee's summary of conclusions and recommendations. She is referring to paragraph 237, on page 79 of the Report, and she says this: I am convinced, however, that unless or until answers are found to these questions there will remain room for doubt about the need and justification for the use of animals for laboratory purposes". The questions to which Mrs. Butler was referring lay, alas! outside the terms of reference of the Committee; but they lie, surely, at the very root of the ethics and the propriety of this hateful subject.

I have only one further thing to say. Referring to the second part of Lord Silkin's Question, how much happier one would have been if it had read: What information they now have as to the export of animals for research, and whether they will introduce legislation at an early date to prohibit the expert of animals for research. Only complete prohibition of this experimenting on these wretched, unhappy animals would satisfy me and those who think with me along those lines.

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, I am bound to confess that I speak as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Home Office on the subject of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. I have been a licence holder and have myself carried out animal experiments, always, I may say, with distaste but because I am convinced that they are necessary to medical research. I will come back to that in a moment or two. As a former President of the Royal College of Physicians, I have had to countersign hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for animal licences, and I have been a member of the Medical Research Council. So I have seen this problem from the practical side.

I do not like animal experiments, and I only wish that the dreams—because I am afraid they are dreams—of those like the noble Earl, Lord Buckinghamshire, and the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, could come true, and that all these modern remedies could be discovered and tested, and their safety assessed, without animal experiment. If that were possible nobody would be more pleased than I. But at the present time it is quite impossible for this dream to come true. I only hope that, in the meantime, people who feel so strongly on this matter are themselves refusing to have, for instance, antibiotics, insulin or hormones, or any treatment of that kind—and, of course, any of the modern anæsthetics, because all these have been brought in on the basis of animal experiment. Whether you like it or not, this is a fact. It is also a fact that our own legislation, and our care and inspection of animal experiments in this country, is, as I think we all acknowledge, better than that anywhere else in the world—and I have travelled in a good many parts of the world.

I deplore the kind of anti-vivisection propaganda—though I have a lot of sympathy with the abolitionists—which in vivid headlines points out that out of 4 million or 5 million experiments 88 or 90 per cent. are done without an anæsthetic. I ask you, my Lords: if you are going to have an experiment on the diet of puppies to see what produces rickets—some extremely important experiments which I happen to remember well, because I had something to do with them years ago—would you give the puppies an anæsthetic in order to give them a diet? Would you give rats anæsthetics in order to give them an injection of a drug or some kind of immunisation? Would you give me an anæsthetic in order to give me a subcutaneous injection? I hope not.

We all know that most of these 4 million experiments carried out without anæsthetics are experiments of that kind: I know it, having signed all these forms. I would say that the least objectionable experiments are precisely those done without an anæsthetic, because we know that we cannot do painful experiments, or experiments producing any significant pain beyond pricking a leg, without an anæsthetic. So the really excusable experiments, from the pain point of view, are those 4 million, or 88 per cent., or whatever the proportion is, that are being done without anæsthesia. There is an enormous amount of misunderstanding and, one almost feels, an enormous amount of deliberately misleading propaganda. I am sorry to say this, but I think it is quite true and has to be said.

Lord Silkin's Question comes in two parts. Let me say at once that I agree with almost every word which he and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, have said in this debate, and I think that I can be fairly brief with the rest of my remarks. The Littlewood Report dates, unfortunately, from 1965, and little or nothing has yet been done. I should be very pleased to hear that the Government are going to find time very soon to go into the Committee's recommendations and try to produce some legislation, because I am sure it is time that the Act was reviewed and brought up to date. But I do not say that because I believe that things are going seriously wrong. Indeed, on page 190 of the Report, in paragraphs (8) and (9) of the general findings, the Committee say: There is no evidence of serious wastage of animals in recent years. There is no foundation for any general suspicion of the concern of licensees for their animals. Then paragraph (11) says: The increase in the numbers of animals used in research is largely to be explained by the expansion of biological science and the mandatory testing of biological substances. In other words, my Lords, the Littlewood Committee did not find that a great many things were going wrong. They thought that a great many things should be tidied up, with clearer legislation, and that certain improvements might be made; and among their recommendations were two which they thought might be brought in without any fresh legislation.

The first was that the number of inspectors should be increased. I understand, and no doubt we shall hear from the noble Baroness who will wind up the debate on this question, that the number of inspectors has been increased. I agree that statistically the number seems ab- surd, if we look at the figures which the noble Earl put before us of so many experiments. They have increased absolutely out of recognition, yet the number of inspectors has gone up hardly at all— I forget exactly what the noble Earl's figures were.

Here is another misunderstanding. You may have a great pharmaceutical firm, or a big department of medical research, which has hundreds of cages of rats and mice who are undergoing comparatively trivial procedures in the testing of drugs or something of this kind; and it does not take a thousand inspectors to inspect ten thousand animals. The figures are really misleading from that point of view. I am informed (because I am a member of this Advisory Committee, and have access to certain information about these things) that the inspectors are still quite able to visit three or four times in any year all the premises licensed for animal experiment. If so, I would say that that is completely adequate.

In my department we always welcomed the visits of the inspectors because, first, we knew that our own procedures were beyond reproach and, secondly, because they could perhaps help us in suggesting some improvement in the conditions in which we kept our animals and, if so, we were only too pleased to receive their suggestions. We did not really need them to come round every three weeks to see whether, behind their backs, we were doing some frightful procedures on our animals. They came, of course, without notice, and we did not mind when they came. That I am sure is true of most research institutes in this country. Nevertheless, I think we shall be told that the number of inspectors has been increased, that their conditions of payment and recruitment are improving, and that a number of them are people with veterinary qualifications, with or without medical ones.

The other matter which the Littlewood Committee thought might be brought into practice without legislation was changes in the Advisory Committee. As a member of the present Advisory Committee I may say that I should not resist any such changes which the Government might suggest at this time. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, suggested that the Advisory Committee might take very seriously the whole question of public relations in regard to animal experiments, and I think that that is a very valuable suggestion which we might well act upon. With regard to the export of animals, which is the second question of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I am in complete agreement with all those who ask, "Why should we export animals for research to countries where we know conditions are not nearly as good as they are at home?", This was closely debated on the Second Reading debate on the Bill of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard on January 30, 1969, in which I spoke, and I was convinced at the end of it that there was really no very practical way in which this export could be prevented. Animals could be exported as pets to France, and we could not prevent them from being used for experiment in Japan a week or two later. It seemed to me impracticable.

I was impressed with the argument that people in Japan are rot going to import dogs from Britain when there are so many stray dogs in Japan that they do not know what to do with them. If they are going to pay a lot of money for highly bred animals for medical experiment, those animals are going to the people who are likely to use them properly. Nevertheless, if the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, or others could draft some Bill whereby the export of animals for research could be controlled in a practical way, I am sure I should be one of the supporters of it.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, we are indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for calling our attention once again to this very important subject. It is almost exactly twelve months since my noble friend Viscount Massereene and Ferrard introduced and ultimately withdrew his Bill on the export of animals for research. Before coming to your Lordships' House I read again the Hansard of that debate. It is illuminating and it casts light on the reason why progress is so slow.

The Littlewood Committee's Report aimed to redress some of the gross abuses of the 1876 Act. That antique piece of legislation was, however, defended by a number of scientists who spoke, and with your Lordships' permission. I will recall again the words of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. In his opening remarks, he said: I commend to your Lordships the structure of the 1876 Act. It is a good Act; it is well drafted. The fact that after 92 years it has never been necessary to take it to court to find out what it means is a point in its favour. That is in column 1346 of Hansard for January 30 last year. I choose to differ from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. I feel that this Act is a piece of solid Victorian mahogany-dead wood—which should have been removed from the Statute Book and replaced by modern legislation long ago. It provides in my view—and I speak subject to correction here—a foolproof cover for the experimenter, and very limited protection for an animal.

Let us turn to page 79 of the Littlewood Report, paragraph 237, to which my noble friend, Lord Ailwyn, referred. Attention was drawn in this paragraph to three major questions of ethics. Of these I should like to quote the first one only, which reads: Who can say whether, if certain biological tests were forbidden, satisfactory chemical or other methods of testing would not be developed? I was most interested to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, say that alternative methods were a dream and no more than a dream. With respect, I should like to draw his attention to the address delivered by Professor S. T. Aygun to the World Congress against Vivisection in August, 1967, on cell and tissue culture, and their use as an alternative to vivisection. Cell and tissue culture is fairly old, and many lines of investigation which it was once thought required animal trials can now be dispensed with. I would put it to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that embryology, parasitology, immunology, certain branches of genetics, radiobiology and especially virology can benefit from cell tissue experimentation rather than vivisection. The noble Lord nods his head. I am grateful for his agreement on that point. I feel it is extremely important because that is the line which medical research, and indeed agricultural research, should be following. In my view three separate Committees who have reported—Littlewood, Brambell and Cooke—are all linked together in the matter of animal welfare.

In the last debate, on January 30, I asked two specific questions, one of which has already been asked by Lord Silkin far better than I could do so. The second one relates to paragraph 350 of the Littlewood Report. Their recommendation is quite clear and I should like to repeat my question: when are we going to see a code of practice?

In regard to the second part of Lord Silkin's Question, I would urge the Government to consider the real evidence of maltreatment of dogs in experimental establishments abroad. On the last occasion I quoted evidence from Japan, and I make no apology for a second quotation from an eye-witness report of a tour by a trained laboratory technician belonging to the Japan Animal Welfare Society, in November of this year. It was during her visit to Tokyo Women's Medical College. Her report is as follows: The second room held dogs which had just been operated upon. The whole room was packed with tiny metal cages so ridiculously small that the larger dogs could hardly move. The dogs had no resting boards. The cages were too small to fit them in, and the floors of the cages consisted of six metal bars, which made it very difficult for the dogs to stand on. This room had not been cleaned, either. The noise the dogs made was absolutely deafening. I was then shown by the English-speaking Japanese doctor, a woman, their brand-new dog room which had only just been completed. There were no dogs in it. It consisted of rows of these metal cages built slightly larger than the others I had seen—all completely useless for keeping dogs in for the long-term experiments that they conduct there. They must have cost an absolute fortune to install and will probably last for twenty years. This report, from a trained expert witness of establishments of experiment abroad, makes heartbreaking reading, and, I feel, needs no further comment.

To return to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, urging Government action on the Littlewood Report, I would make only this final comment. If stray dogs and cats were enfranchised and formed part of the floating vote, we should have had action long before now.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, it is getting late and I shall be very brief. I should like to start by saying, "Thank you" once more to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for raising this Question. I wish to impress most strongly upon the Government the urgency of doing something about this matter, and doing it quickly. The noble Baroness who replied for the Government on the last occasion, and who is to reply tonight, made what I thought was a rather rash statement: that she did not think that five years was a very long delay about doing anything. Five years, plus or minus, may mean very little to somebody in the prime of life, but it is a darned long time to 5 million of God's creatures who are awaiting the knife or the needle: and I urge the Government to do something quickly.

We have had mentioned this evening a certain number of figures, all of which are frightening. I should like to summarise them. The number of experiments is counted in millions; the number of experimenters is counted in thousands; the number of premises where these experiments are carried out is counted in hundreds; the number of inspectors is about a dozen; the number of sponsors (of whom the noble Lord, Lord Platt, is, or was, one) is half a dozen. Now, with the best will in the world, what can half a dozen sponsors and a dozen inspectors know in detail about 5 million experiments being done by thousands of experimenters all over the country? I urge the Government, when legislation comes along, to consider very carefully a revised form of supervision.

I should like to bring out two other points. Are the Government satisfied that there is not unnecessary duplication and unnecessary repetition of experiments? I should have thought that, in these days of television, repeated experiments for purposes of teaching should to a large extent be unnecessary. All that could be done by television. The other point I want to emphasise is this. Is it not absolutely abhorrent that animals should be experimented on for purposes of cosmetics? Surely, if the ladies want bigger and better cosmetics they can find some humans on whom to experiment, instead of experimenting on dogs.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, I also should like to add my thanks to those of other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for bringing up these Questions. I shall be very brief. Regarding the first part of the noble Lord's Question, on the Littlewood Report, I would only say that it is said in that Report that the role of animal legislation should be to prohibit objectionable activities. Coming to the second part of the noble Lord's Question, surely the export of animals for research to countries that have no equivalent law to our own to protect animals from cruelty is an objectionable activity and would come under the Littlewood Report.

It is true that the majority of animals exported from this country—we have heard a figure of, I think, 5 million—are rodents, the majority of which are rats and mice. In the Bill which I introduced —and which the House did not accept— regarding the export of animals for research, I said that if the Bill had a Second Reading and we reached the Committee stage, it would be possible to except from any legislation cm the export of animals for research pure breeds of rats and mice, which of course are used in research into cancer and genetics and general toxicology by scientists all over the world confirming each other's experiments.

It may not be rational—indeed, it is really irrational—but what I think the public are really concerned about is the export of dogs and cats for research to countries where they may be tortured. Although I agree, as I have said, that it is irrational and illogical, if only the Government could do something to try to stop this trade in dogs and cats it would be at least a step in the right direction. I find it highly objectionable that we have institutions in this country that in fact breed dogs for export for research. When the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was answering the debate I initiated he said that, so far as he could ascertain, there had been only 8,000 dogs exported for all purposes, including pets, during the year 1966–67. I have no figures for the last year. In the debate in January, 1969, we had evidence from the R.S.P.C.A. hostel at Heathrow that they were handling 300 puppies a month to Japan; and the same source said that so far as he was aware there was an even larger export trade from Manchester Airport. It would hardly seem likely that all these dogs were going to Japan as pets, because so far as I am aware the average Japanese does not keep a pet dog.

I agree that in practice it is difficult to carry out legislation, because one cannot prevent the exporters saying that they have exported the dogs for the purpose of selling them as pets. Nevertheless, the very fact of having such legislation, even if to a certain extent it can be thwarted, would certainly act as a deterrent and to a certain extent would stop this disreputable trade.

My Lords, we have always led the world in the humane treatment of animals and it would be a great pity if we were to nullify that record by becoming (as we appear to be becoming) the greatest breeders of export animals for research for vivisectional purposes. As I have said, I have no objection if they are exported to countries which have equivalent legislation to our own regarding the treatment of animals, but I can-not understand why, as it is freely admitted that we in this country breed the best animals for this purpose, the Government cannot say to other countries, "If you want our finest strains of animals for research you must start to improve your legislation for the protection of animals". I should have thought that the scientists in this country could have asked their colleagues abroad to lobby their Governments in an attempt to get them to do something about this problem, but so far as I am aware our scientists have not made any such approach.

We have heard from one noble Lord that the tragedy of thalidomide would not have occurred had there been more experimentation on animals, but in fact I have been informed that in the case of thalidomide the proper substance on which to experiment would have been tissue. I believe it was my noble friend Lord Sandys who said that a great advance has been made in research formerly practised on animals by carrying out the equivalent research on tissue. I hope the Government will be able to give some lead to induce scientists, where possible, to carry out their researches with tissue.

I do not want to detain your Lordships much longer, but I would point out that it has also been stated by some doctors that tests on animals do not afford a 100 per cent. guarantee that the results obtained will be reproduced in men. Doctor Starr, who is the honorary director of the N.S.W. Cancer Research Unit, made a statement saying that it is not possible to apply to the human species information derived from inducing cancer in animals by means of experiments. That makes one think. I suppose eventually it will come about by international agreement that the export of animals for research to countries which have no proper legislation will be forbidden. But in the meantime a great number of animals will suffer, and I press upon the Government that they should do everything they can to speed up the process and to give a lead by means of some such legislation as that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. My Lords, I can only end my speech to-day as I ended my speech on my Bill: that if we consider ourselves to be the highest form of life we should try to behave as such.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down to speak, but I did not think that I should be in your Lordships' House when the Question was raised. I am glad to have this opportunity of saying how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for raising the matter.

My main point, which I will deal with quite briefly, is that this topic is all the more important and all the more urgent because it embodies a pattern which repeats itself increasingly in our contemporary society and already extends to questions about human beings. Here is a medical-social matter of both immense scientific and immense moral importance, when questions of truth and morality come together, and yet here, as elsewhere, they are often in conflict. On the one hand there is the scientific exploration of life: the development of medical techniques and medical research for the health and well-being of man—the whole quest and search for truth, and all that points in one direction and wins universal approval. On the other hand, this whole area of research is one that plainly bristles with moral problems, where there is a constant hazard of encouraging moral insensitivity; and while a respect for human life need not be transferred uncritically to animal life, surely the greatest care must be taken in this area lest it encourages a growing insensitivity and fosters inhuman attitudes. This is surely all the more important because, as has so often been said, animals cannot speak for themselves. As Appendix VII of the Littlewood Report makes clear, where it deals very critically with the physical and mental overlap between men and animals, there is nevertheless quite a considerable overlap, and perhaps more than some critics might think.

Plainly, in an area as complicated as this there are no simple answers. In a criss-cross area where research and morality are often in tension we must have all the knowledge and expertise and safeguards that we can have. Here we have the Littlewood Report, produced after a thorough study of this complicated field; well informed, sensitive, careful and balanced—the very thing we need in an area like this. Why on earth not do something about it? Here is an issue that is of importance in itself, but I have tried to argue that it is even more important because it combines themes with which, for the social good, we need to show ourselves urgently and increasingly and evidently concerned. And here in this Report is a wise, balanced, practical way forward. It is for these reasons that I certainly hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to give reassuring answers to the points which the noble Lord has raised in his Question this evening.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, I yield to no one in my devotion for animals. I had not intended to speak, but there are one or two threads which I think require to be drawn together. I was stung, I must say, by the implication in some speeches that licensed experimenters may be callous. My experience, which though not extensive is considerable, has given me the impression that rather the reverse is the case; and, respecting as I do the views of the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, and his passionate devotion to them, I think it a pity, and unfair, to suggest that people in medical research or the pharmaceutical businesses would "torture animals for the benefit of man". Surely even the 1876 Act, and certainly the ramifications of it which have developed under the inspectorate of the Home Office, ensure that animals who are put into pain and should be painlessly destroyed, are painlessly destroyed. That is what the inspectors ensure.

The noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, mentioned the size of the figures which of course all noble Lords will have received from the Anti-Vivisection League. But of course they themselves show that, of the 4½ million experiments carried out without anæsthetics, only 10,636 were on cats, dogs or horses. This proves the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that the vast majority of experiments are carried out on rodents and are painless; they are very largely experiments with diets, or involve the drawing of a drop of blood from the ear. In one organisation with which I was concerned we had a rabbit which died at the ripe old age of five years having had an experiment carried out every fortnight of its life, the testing of a drug by a drop of blood drawn in order to ensure the correctness of a batch for curative purposes in human beings. The animal was not put to any pain and lived a comfortable life.

I read through the report of the debate on the noble Viscount's Bill and was greatly impressed to re-read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stamp. I would urge noble Lords who wish to turn it over in their mind to read it. He made an interesting point, which I will not elaborate, about the importance to the researcher that the animal should be well and contented. Furthermore, he brought out in his speech that the trade in rodents for export and import (there is an exchange in it) is very largely dependent on the breeding being of a pure strain, an infection-free strain, and that is the great bulk of the experiments done without anæsthetic.

I support everything the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has said, and, as an animal lover, feel, like the noble Earl, Lord Buckingham, absolutely revolted by the theft of pets and the submission of pets to experimenting. It is not that I suggest that they are put into pain by the experimenters, but those of us who love dogs and cats know what the companionship of human beings means to them; and for them to be caged and deserted is something quite intolerable. I believe that whatever else the Government do they should find time for the development of some of the suggestions made in the Littlewood Report, and I think Chap- ters 25 and 26 are the ones chiefly concerned. I feel that it is a pity that such an enormous pool of potential animals for testing—puppies and kittens from unwanted litters—are destroyed by the R.S.P.C.A., daily, weekly and yearly. If, as I believe, the important thing to a pet is its association with man and its friendship with human beings, would it not be one way to avoid the risk of the stealing of pets if some use could be made of the little blind puppies at present destroyed in in their thousands every week by putting them at the disposal of licensed suppliers to fill the need, if such need exists, above the supplies available from the premises of licensed breeders?

I would refer to one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. I cannot find the exact point in the Report at the moment, but somewhere it is clearly said that witnesses declared that they would rejoice at any alternative that could be given to them other than experimentation on live animals, if it was going to be effective for their purpose.

With regard to the export of animals for research, I would ask: how is one to know? This point has been made by other speakers, so I will not develop it. I shall be very happy if the noble Baroness is able to tell us that she has had any assistance from, say, the Kennel Club, or organisations of that sort, as to what they know about the disposal of dogs that are shipped overseas to customers who may talk about them as pets but may intend to sell them for experimentation. At the same time, let us be tolerant. There are large areas in the world where, we must remember, dogs are bred for food, and it must also be remembered that whereas we delight in association with our dogs as pets, and as aids to our work, our farming and our sport, the whole world which is covered by the Mohammedan Faith regards the dog as an unclean animal.

I would join other noble Lords in the thanks voiced to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for raising this matter, and I look forward with the utmost interest to the reply which we are to hear from the noble Baroness.

7.40 p.m.


My Lords, I think I have quite a heavy task to try to reply to all the questions which have been put to me, but I will do my best. I am sure the whole House will agree that this has been a most interesting and indeed a most moving debate this evening. We are deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Silkin for putting down his Question. The Government are, of course, well aware of the deep concern in all parts of the House about the welfare and the export of these animals, and perhaps especially since this is the third or fourth time that the House has given full consideration to these matters in the space of about a year. The actual history of the Littlewood Committee has been very well dealt with by various noble Lords, and I think I need not repeat it. However, I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Silkin that although the Littlewood Committee were set up by the previous Government there can be absolutely no question of this being a Party matter. That does not influence the Government in the slightest degree, and I should like to give my noble friend my complete assurance on that because I should not like him to think it otherwise.

It is a little difficult to know quite where to begin. I took very seriously the points raised by the right reverend Prelate about sensitivity and the increase of inhumane treatment to man arising out of insensitivity to cruelty done to animals. I am quite sure that the Littlewood Committee were extremely well aware of that. As your Lordships know, they themselves stated that this was a moral and social problem of the first magnitude which did not only or exclusively concern the experts. That is a measure of the kind of spirit in which the Littlewood Committee deal with these matters. They felt that anyone who makes use of an animal in research incurs a moral responsibility to justify his action, and of course a duty to limit pain and give proper care.

I should like to say to the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, that the Committee also found that the risk of unnecessary repetition of experiments was very small and that the scale of duplication was not serious. I think we can take the Littlewood evidence on that as sound and rational.


My Lords, has not television been enormously improved since that Report was written?


Yes, my Lords, indeed it has. But television is used mainly to demonstrate by surgeons the way to operate, how to do it. I do not think you could find the actual results of research in specific animals by watching television; you have to have the actual experiment itself to find out the different things for which you are looking.

I think the next point is probably the one which worries many noble Lords: that there has been an increase in the number of animals used in research. This is absolutely self-evident, and was recognised by the Littlewood Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Platt, stated, this is of course due to the gigantic steps forward that have been made in medical knowledge and in the diagnosis and cure of killer diseases by the use of drugs, and I am afraid it is inevitable that this will go on increasing the number of experiments. The Littlewood Committee recognised—as I think most noble Lords know—that before a new drug can be marketed each batch of that drug has, by law, to be tested on animals; and this in itself will necessarily increase the experiments. Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Platt, pointed out—as I did in answer to the noble Earl's question— most of these experiments are a prick in the ear to obtain some blood and injections such as we ourselves are all too often subjected to, and are not the kind of horrific experiment which one can so easily imagine.

One of the problems regarding the swift implementation of the Littlewood Report is that the Committee recommended that piecemeal changes would not be appropriate. They wanted to see the proposals carried out completely, and obviously this would have tremendous advantages. If it was done piecemeal it would cause tremendous confusion among the public, the licensees and everybody else. Legislation would be needed to implement many of the proposals—and I say frankly that this is one of the Government's main difficulties. Many of your Lordships will know from personal experience that priority in legislation is always extremely difficult to determine, and although noble Lords feel, and the Committee felt, that there is room for improvement, the Committee, as has been said, laid no emphasis on the need for urgency.

May I illustrate one of the Government's difficulties? Shortly after the Committee reported to the Home Secretary some 40 organisations—not 16 as was said—which submitted evidence to the Littlewood Committee were invited to give their views on the Report's recommendations. The replies disclosed a substantial measure of agreement with a number of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations, but also disclosed the complex character of the basic problem and the very different views—and this is important—among the representational bodies. This emphasised that there would be disagreements continuing about the subject in general.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, kindly gave me notice of some of the points that he raised—in particular whether the Government accepted various of the detailed recommendations. He referred particularly to the proposed rewording of the pain condition and the recommendations in Chapters 18, 19, and 20; and he said that this really represents the nub of the Report. I entirely agree with the noble Lord. Those three chapters contain about thirty recommendations, some of which are fundamental. I very much took the illustration that the noble Lord gave us of the Bellman. We quite agree with his problems, but, unlike the Bellman, we like the matter being mentioned, we like it being debated, and we welcome every single constructive suggestion we can get on this matter. However, I should like to point out to the noble Lord that some poems have sad endings, For the Snark was a Boojum, you see. My Lords, we want to arrive at a proper conclusion, at a really workable solution to this problem. As some of the recommendations do not propose radical changes, it might be thought that we could implement them. But the Government must still explore them thoroughly, not only with scientific bodies and lay organisations, or both, but in general, and put it in the context of the whole subject; and of course we could not guarantee that they would be followed to the last detail. Recommendation No. 18, which the noble Lord specifically brought up (paragraph 297) would be a major departure from the present practice and again will need more detailed consultation and general agreement. I know this all sounds rather long drawn out, but it really has to be done.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, also asked whether we could implement recommendation No. 44, proposing that the Home Office should issue codes of practice. Obviously the Committee were thinking in terms of codes relevant to new legislation, but anything issued now would be applicable only to the 1876 Act and only so long as the Act remained in force. But I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, will be glad to know that, acting in the spirit of this recommendation, the Home Office have produced three sets of Notes for Guidance. They are available to licensees, to intending licensees and to registered authorities, and they contain very valuable information. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will agree that we have gone as far as we can go without introducing legislation on this particular matter.

I know that many of your Lordships feel that there is a need for early action to be taken, but it is extremely difficult to reconcile differing views on this problem; and it is essential to reconcile them while the legislation is being planned and drafted, rather than have implacable opposition from opposite ends of the scale when the matter comes up for debate on the Floor of the House. I am sure it is better that we should continue with our consultations, which are active, and get the matter right in the end.

The Government understand and share the concern of those who feel that action should not be indefinitely delayed, but I am bound to repeat that in the light of the Committee's findings there is no reason to think that the welfare of research animals is ill-safeguarded under the Act. Indeed, many noble Lords have said—and I believe it to be true—that British standards are the best in the world. At this stage, therefore, I am afraid that the Government cannot justify according this new legislation the priority which my noble friend Lord Silkin desires.

There is one point which I should like to raise about legislation—it is a rather sad one. There is, I am afraid, a confusion in the minds of the public generally about what would happen if the Littlewood recommendations were to be implemented straight away. From the letters I received after the Question of the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, last November, it is clear that many people believe that if Littlewood were implemented the experiments using animals would cease, or at any rate would be drastically curtailed. But this is not at all what the Committee themselves recommended, and I am afraid that that would not be the result.

Many noble Lords asked about the Inspectorate. It is true that we have been able to increase their numbers. There are now twelve inspectors. They are very highly qualified and highly experienced people. They are paid at a salary parallel with the scale of medical officers in the Civil Service, and the Chief Inspector is paid on the Principal Medical Officer scale. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that they are highly qualified officers, and well paid. We have an immense admiration for the work they do. Indeed, I wish that noble Lords could meet them as I have done, and could see their absolute devotion and highly-skilled approach to their work. I do not think we can praise them too highly. Of course the right people are not easy to find, but I have every hope that, within the next year, two more members will be added to the Inspectorate, which I hope will comfort noble Lords who are worried about this point. We are keeping the whole matter under active review, within the context, of course, of the manpower policy of the Civil Service, and I have every hope that we shall be able to add to their number.

There are one or two points of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, to which I should like to refer before I turn to the export of animals. I know that the noble Viscount would like to have special statistics on what animals are exported for research and what are merely exported. I am afraid that this would be extremely difficult to find out, as he knows, but I am sure that everyone in the House will have sympathy for his special pleading for dogs and cats. These are animals which are more or less members of our families —in fact my own family is entirely dominated by a very dictatorial marmalade cat which nobody dreams of crossing. I am sure that we all have this kind of relationship with dogs and cats, and we should all be delighted if someone could devise a method of keeping their statistics separate.

The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, made an interesting suggestion about the blind puppies which are destroyed. But one of the difficulties (and this is an answer to the noble Viscount about puppies in Japan) is that puppies take a very long time to mature—unlike rats and mice, which take only a few weeks—and are therefore extremely expensive to use as research animals. For this reason I think it very unlikely that the 300 puppies a week going to Japan, which the noble Viscount mentioned, could possibly be used for experimental purposes: it would cost far too much. However, I was interested in the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, and I will bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend.

We all know how deeply the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, feels about these matters, and we all sympathise with him in the way he thinks and in the great passion which he brings to the subject. But I was a little worried when he said that he would not accept the assurances given by eminent doctors and scientists. I wondered whether when he went to consult his own doctor he had the same feeling of no confidence in him. I think that if he has confidence in medical authorities in one subject, he ought to have it in another which is very closely allied to it. I say that with respect, and I hope without being contentious.

May I now turn to the export of animals? Contrary to what one or two noble Lords implied, the Government are not at all indifferent to this matter, and we have thought about the possibility of making some kind of safeguards for these research animals for export. But, as noble Lords themselves have said, it is an extremely difficult problem and it is very difficult to know how we can deal with it. Nevertheless, we have consulted many organisations of every kind—lay, scientific, medical, veterinary—as well as the public and interested bodies, to see whether they could find evidence of inhumane treatment of research animals abroad. But very little factual evidence was available. I do not know whether we actually consulted the Kennel Club, but I think it would have been represented by one of the bodies. While we were having consultations with all these bodies we discovered one very important fact, which was that restrictions on the export of our animals would be deeply resented by Governments abroad and would almost certainly lead to counterrestrictions on our own animals, as my noble friend Lord Silkin himself stressed. I am sure noble Lords understand that this is a two-way traffic.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Platt, answered many of the points that were made on this subject. Our researchers need animals of special strains to carry out experiments, particularly into killer diseases like cancer and leukaemia. These animals are specially bred abroad and come to us for our research. I should like to remind the House, as my noble friend Lord Stonham stressed, that insulin, for example, which has proved revolutionary in the treatment of diabetics, was discovered through research in Canada. References have been made to the thalidomide tragedy, and I should like to confirm that this might well not have occurred if thalidomide had been tested in more animal species and not simply in tissue. The authority for this is Mr. John Bleby, who is Director of the Medical Research Council Laboratory Animal Centre, which I think is a very good authority. If we were to restrict the international exchange of special strains in animals there might be another disaster. In the very full debate that we had on the Bill introduced by the noble Viscount, my noble friend Lord Stonham, in what I am sure your Lordships will agree was a masterly speech, explained in detail why we could not do very much about this. He put the whole question into perspective with one very wise remark when he said: … we should not approach the subject of animal welfare on a parochial basis; our aim should be to do what we can to eliminate unnecessary suffering wherever it occurs and whatever the animal's country of origin".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30/1/69, col. 1333.] The truth is, my Lords, that by exporting our specially bred high-grade animals we are encouraging doctors and research workers in less developed countries to take particular care of such animals. If we put it at its lowest level, strict control over pain, and attention to the animals' well-being, is essential for most animal experimentation to succeed, irrespective of whether that is required by national law or not. Further, the better-quality animals produce much more reliable data and much better results and therefore reduce the number of animals required. Then there is the very important point that animals specially bred here and exported abroad cost much more than animals which are found locally, and would be used only in very serious research projects.

I think these conditions provide an effective safeguard for the use of our animals abroad. Indeed, I think they provide a good example and a good beginning for the kind of conditions which must be used in all research laboratories. There is no doubt that science, and particularly medical science, is growing increasingly international, and this must be encouraged for the benefit of humanity generally. I am sure my noble friend Lord Silkin appreciates this fully.

I would also say that animal research greatly assists in dealing with animal disease. As the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, pointed out in that debate, … almost the only satisfactory vaccine against enteritis affecting cats has been developed abroad from breeding stock imported from Britain".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30/1/69, col. 1340.] So there are, my Lords, many sides to this question. I know that noble Lords are apprehensive about conditions in laboratories overseas, as indeed I am, particularly in the developing countries. Nevertheless, I think we all wish to encourage just those countries to play their part in trying to help to reduce world-wide disease. The use of expensive, first-class animals will do much to encourage researchers to raise their standards, and this should be our aim.


My Lords, I feel the noble Baroness is reaching a conclusion. May I just ask her if she has anything to say to us on the Advisory Committee? The noble Lord, Lord Platt, is a member of it, and the chairman of it is now in the House. I did put a suggestion to the noble Baroness that possibly the Advisory Committee could be helpful by way of publicity. To be frank, there is a feeling, I think, that, with its wide spread of talent, possibly the Advisory Committee is not being allowed to do quite as much as some people would wish.


My Lords, I entirely agree that the Advisory Committee is a magnificent body of men and that we should use them as fully as we possibly can. I am not sure how they themselves would feel about being responsible for publicity, since they are an Advisory Committee to the Government; but I am quite sure that my noble friend would be very willing to discuss that matter with them, and they have the welfare of animals so closely at heart that I am sure they would be prepared to do anything which might help in that regard. But publicity I am not quite so sure of.

I am not quite finished, but I nearly am, and will try not to keep your Lordships much longer. One point was raised about alternatives to animal experimentation. Alternatives are actively being sought all the time, because of course everybody would prefer that; and when we find satisfactory alternatives they are always used. But not many suitable ones are found, and the Littlewood Committee itself, and scientific opinion generally, would I think agree that even if we find alternatives and use them there is no doubt that there will be an increase in animal research, and I think we have to face that point.

My Lords, I am afraid that in some ways what I have said may have been a little depressing for some noble Lords. I have given all the reasons why the Government do not see a compelling need to restrict the export of animals specially bred for export. But I should nevertheless like to say again to my noble friend Lord Silkin that we are deeply grateful to him, and that of course I will bring his suggestion of a new Commission on the export of animals for research to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Responsibility for the export of animals for other purposes rests of course with my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture; and I will consult them both.

I am sure my noble friend will understand that I cannot accept his proposals outright to-night, but I should like to thank him, if I may say it with respect, for the most temperate way in which he put his questions. We shall consider them, and the whole House will accept that he asked them in the most helpful way.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down may I point out that, whilst I agree with her that animals for export must be kept in good conditions for the experiments to be performed on them, what we are worried about is that while the experiments are being performed, while the animals are under the knife, they probably do not have any form of anæsthetic, or anything like that.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Viscount should worry quite so much as he does. If, as he puts it, one puts an animal under the knife without anæsthetic, it is far less useful in giving back the results that one wants. Furthermore, ether, which is the anæsthetic commonly used abroad, is extremely cheap. As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Platt, would agree with me, experts who go abroad, as they often do, have never seen animals being carved up, as I am sure the noble Viscount is afraid, without a drop or two of ether, or something of that kind, on their nose; and I hope that the same is true of killing them before they come round from the anæsthetic if extreme or any kind of pain is going to be experienced.