Use of Animals in Licensed Field Trials

Luke Steele made this Freedom of Information request to Food and Environment Research Agency

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was refused by Food and Environment Research Agency.

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Request for Information Relating to the Use of Animals in Field Trials

To Whom It May Concern,

I write in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“The Act”) to request the disclosure of data held which concerns the use of animals in licensed field trials by the Food and Environment Research Agency (“FERA”). For the avoidance of doubt the term 'licensed' is defined as that governed by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (“ASPA”). 'Field Trials' is that conducted at FERA Research Stations and not located within the Sand Hutton and Cambridge sites.

The information I wish to request is as follows:

1) By species; how many animals were used and subsequently procured in licensed field trials in 2011?

2) By species; how many animals were wild-caught for the purposes of licensed field trials in 2011?

3) By species; how many animals were wild-caught and transferred to other FERA facilities in 2011?

I must stress that I am not interested in data which identifies those under the institution's employ and wholly agree for such personal information to be redacted.

As I am sure you are aware, The Act dictates that a response must be given within 20 days of receipt of this request. In the eventuality of any delay, I request that you keep me informed. If there are any matters on which you seek clarity, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Many thanks for your assistance and time spent in handling my request.

Kind Regards,

Luke Steele

Dear Mr Steele

Further to your request for information, I would be grateful if you could clarify the meaning of “procured” in the question below.

1) By species; how many animals were used and subsequently procured in licensed field trials in 2011?

Please note that, until clarification is received from you, I am unable to progress your case further. Under the Act, Fera has 20 working days to respond to you once we have received clarification.

Kind regards.

Fera Central Correspondence Unit

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Dear FERA,

Many thanks for your request for clarification. I can confirm that by the term 'procured' I refer to animals (including fish and amphibians) being euthanised.

Kind Regards,

Luke Steele

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Steele

 

Further to your request dated 17 January 2013, please see the attached
response from the Food and Environment Research Agency.

 

Regards.

 

 

Fera Central Correspondence Unit

-- 

Central Correspondence Unit

The Food and Environment Research Agency

Sand Hutton

York

YO41 1LZ

 

Email: [email address]

Web: [1]www.defra.gov.uk/fera

 

 

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

The information contained in this message may include privileged,
proprietary or confidential information. Please treat it with the same
respect that you would expect for your own information. If you have
received it in error, we apologise and ask that you contact the sender
immediately and erase it from your computer. Thank you for your
co-operation.

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References

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FERA Central Correspondence Unit,
The Food and Environment Research Agency,
Sand Hutton,
York, North Yorkshire,
YO41 1LZ

Monday 18th February 2013

Re: Use of Animals in Licensed Field Trials

Dear Sirs,

Many thanks for your response to my request (“The Request”), dated 1st February 2013 and of the above reference.

I wish to take this opportunity to request an Internal Review regarding the refusal (“The Refusal”) to disclose statistics sought in The Request. The Refusal claimed exemption under S.24(a) of Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (“ASPA”)[1], citing the confidentiality of this data.

S.24 ASPA – Introduction & Purpose Where Relevant to FERA

S. 24 ASPA was introduced as part of ASPA in 1986, making it an offence for those under the employ of Designated Scientific Procedure Establishments (“DSPEs”) to disclose information which
was contributed in confidence as part of their role.

The reasoning for the introduction of S.24 was to prevent information from falling into what could be termed as 'the wrong hands'. This has a number of interpretations, however two are
particularly prominent in cases where exemption is sought:

1) Competition – Some organisations operate their businesses in a competitive nature and rely on confidentiality within their supplier and client network. It is argued that the disclosure of certain information may lead those business partners to seek contracts with other organisations of a similar business line, thus resulting in an unfair advantage for competitors. Such is the case with numerous DSPEs, such as Contract Research Organisations (“CROs”) and pharmaceutical developers.

However, this is not the case with FERA which conducts research into matters relating to the environment and agriculture. As a government organisation, which operates as a part of the DEFRA, FERA does not have any competitors or financial interests to protect and thus cannot seek exemption under S.24(1) ASPA in this case.

2) Protection – Animal research enterprises are more concerned about the protection of employees than other organisations. This is largely as a result of perceived threat from the extreme fringe of the animal rights movement, but this does not present an exemption from disclosure. However, what this does mean is that organisations may redact information which may lead to the identification of staff.

In relevance to The Request, FERA were invited to redact any information of this nature prior to disclosure. Additionally, documents which fall within the criteria of disclosure relate to the statistics of animals used in licensed field trials and not the identity of employees, sensitive buildings or other data of this nature. Consequently no exemption cannot be sought under S.24 (a) ASPA.

Statistics on the Use of Live Animals in Research

Premises conducting research on, or procedures involving, live animals are required by law to be licensed by the Home Office in accordance with ASPA. Such procedure is aimed at regulating animal welfare and ensuring that experimentation is only conducted within DSPEs, by those holding relevant project licenses.

On condition of research licenses being issued, Individual Project License Holders (IPLH) and DSPEs must complete Annual Statistical Returns documenting the number of animals used, their species and a vague description of the type of research undertaken.[2] These are returned to the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit (“HOASRU”), allowing government monitoring of research trends and the identification of improvement under national 3Rs policy. Annually, the Home Office releases a compilation of this data in the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals – Great Britain report. [3]

The Confidentiality Test

The Confidentiality Test seeks to determine if S.24 Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 – Protection of Confidential Information - can be relied upon as a valid exemption to disclosure.

S. 24(a) ASPA 1986 states:

“A person is guilty of an offence if otherwise than for the purpose of discharging his functions under this Act he discloses any information which has been obtained by him in the exercise of those functions and which he knows or has reasonable grounds for believing to have been given in confidence”

Therefore, The Confidentiality Test must determine whether person(s) under the employ of the DSPE knew, or had reasonable grounds for believing, the information concerned was given in
confidence. In this case, the information to which this test is being applied is the statics relating to the use of animals in licensed field trials during 2011.

As cited in the previous section, IPLHs and DSPEs submit Annual Statistical Returns to the Home Office each annum. These are in turn compiled and published in the public domain. Given that this is a mandatory obligation under condition of project licenses being issued, it can reasonably be argued that both an IPLH and DSPE are aware that the information is not being submitted in confidence.

Using The Confidentiality Test conclusive indication can be given that persons submitting Annual Statistical Returns are aware that this is not given in absolute confidence. As a consequence, disclosure is not exempt under S24(a) ASPA.

Conclusion

The above evidence clearly shows S.24(a) Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 does not provide a valid exemption from disclosure in this case.

Firstly, FERA does not fall within the scope of protection for which S.24 was introduced – not only does the facility not have competing organisations, and therefore cannot hold information sensitive in relation to remaining competitive as part of an industry, but also that the disclosure of information sought will not fuel any adverse consequences where employees are
concerned.

In addition, The Confidentiality Test strongly leans towards disclosure. Employees cannot have reasonably thought information was, or was likely to have been, given in confidence when it is common knowledge that this data is compiled and published annually.

In conclusion, I request that the above matters are taken into consideration and an Internal Review is conducted regarding disclosure.

I await your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Luke Steele

------------------------

Sources:

[1] Section 24 – Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 :- http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986...

[2] User Guide to Home Office Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (Home Office; July 2012) - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication...

[3] Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals – Great Britain (Home Office; July 2012) - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication...

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Steele

Further to your email below, please see the attached letter which confirms receipt of your request for an internal review.

Regards.

Fera Central Correspondence Unit

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1 Attachment

Dear Mr Steele

Further to your request below, please see the attached response from the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Regards.

Fera Central Correspondence Unit

show quoted sections

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Steele

 

Further to your correspondence of 17 February 2013 which requested an
Internal Review in relation to the above case, please see the attached
letter which provides you with the result of the Review. 

 

Regards.

 

 

Fera Central Correspondence Unit   

-- 

Central Correspondence Unit

The Food and Environment Research Agency

Sand Hutton

York

YO41 1LZ

 

Email: [1][email address]

Web: [2]www.defra.gov.uk/fera

 

 

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

The information contained in this message may include privileged,
proprietary or confidential information. Please treat it with the same
respect that you would expect for your own information. If you have
received it in error, we apologise and ask that you contact the sender
immediately and erase it from your computer. Thank you for your
co-operation.

show quoted sections

References

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2. http://www.defra.gov.uk/fera