HC Deb 08 November 2000 vol 356 cc253-4W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what criteria are used to classify a project 1 procedure under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 as being likely to be of substantial severity; and if he will make a statement; [136599]

(2) how many procedure 1 projects under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, as a proportion of the total, were in the substantial severity category for each of the last 10 years. [136600]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

The Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 sets out the criteria for determining severity levels. Two different types of severity levels are set on project licences; a severity limit for each protocol authorised in the licence and an overall severity banding for the project.

The severity limit for each protocol is determined by the upper limit of the expected adverse effects that may be encountered by a protected animal, taking into account the measures specified in the licence for avoiding and controlling these effects. It represents the worst potential outcome for any animal subjected to the protocol, even if it may only be, and often is, experienced by a small number of the animals to be used. Indeed, it may never be encountered.

Protocols of substantial severity may result in a major departure from the animal's usual state of health or well-being. These include: acute toxicity procedures where significant morbidity is an endpoint; some efficacy tests of anti-microbial agents and vaccines; major surgery; and some models of disease, where welfare may be seriously compromised. If it is expected that even one animal would suffer substantial effects, the procedure would merit a substantial severity limit. The Secretary of State will not license any procedure likely to cause severe pain or distress that cannot be alleviated. Licence holders are required by conditions in both project and personal licences to minimise any pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm and to approach the set severity limit only when absolutely necessary.

The assessment of the overall severity of a project reflects the cumulative effect of each procedure. This assessment is used to weigh the likely adverse effects on all the animals to be used against the benefit likely to accrue. It takes into account not just the level of suffering that might be reached, but also such factors as the number of animals involved; the frequency of use of each procedure; the proportion of animals that are expected to be exposed to the upper severity limits; and the length of time that animals will experience such adverse effects.

The severity bandings of project licences were introduced into the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals in 1998 at Appendix B. Figures before that date were not published in the annual statistics, but were generally included as part of the Annual Report of the Animal Procedures Committee.

Figures are as follows:

Project Licences issued during 1991
Substantial 11
Total 685
Project Licences issued during 1992
Substantial 33
Total 1,257
Project Licences issued during 1993
Substantial 21
Total 1,444
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1994
Substantial not readily available
Total 4,013
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1995
Substantial 72
Total 3,977
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1996
Substantial 66
Total 3,869
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1997
Substantial 66
Total 3,765
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1998
Substantial 66
Total 3,650
Project Licences in force on 31 December 1999
Substantial 66
Total 3,481