Imperial College registrar quits animal welfare post following report on suffering

The registrar of Imperial College London has resigned from his role in animal research after a report from government advisers found the university broke rules and put animal welfare at risk.

Imperial College London

John Neilson, who continues as the university’s secretary and registrar, was responsible for making sure that staff complied with laws around animal research, but was asked to step down after a discussion between the university and Norman Baker, the Home Office minister responsible for animals in research.

The move follows a report by the Animals in Science Committee which found the college “clearly fell short” of standards set out in the legislation that governs use of animals in experiments. The report found there was evidence for infringements that “occurred on an unacceptable scale for an unknown, but extended, period”. It went on to say there was “an unacceptable risk that some might involve appreciable welfare costs to the animals”.

The committee, led by John Landers, former principal of Hertford College, Oxford, drew on two other reports into the running of an animal facility at Imperial’s Hammersmith campus.

Both were commissioned after the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection published a series of allegations from an undercover investigation last year. The group claimed that some experiments at Hammersmith caused more pain to animals than Home Office licences allowed. They also criticised staffing levels, surgical practices, use of painkillers and approaches to killing animals used in studies.

Imperial said: “The college recognises past shortcomings in its governance and organisation of animal research. It has committed to and made a substantial investment in addressing the issues identified in the independent review that it commissioned into animal research at the college. Imperial has revised its governance structure, improved its ethical review process, strengthened support for operational management and put in place better systems for training and sharing good practice.”

To read the Animals in Science Committee report, “Lessons to be learnt, for duty holders and the regulator, from reviews and investigations into non-compliance”, click here:

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