Oxford University Ordered To Release Information To PETA After Ruling

For Immediate Release:
15 June 2009

Alistair Currie 020 7357 9229, ext 245; [email protected]
Samantha Glover 020 7357 9229, ext 229; [email protected]

Oxford – The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered Oxford University to release information about primate experiments that the university had stalwartly refused to disclose. In 2007, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Europe made a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details of experiments performed on Felix, a macaque monkey who had appeared in a 2006 TV documentary and who was later killed after controversial researcher and professor Tipu Aziz induced brain damage in him.

The ICO has found in PETA’s favour on a number of counts and has dismissed Oxford’s argument that releasing details of Felix’s fate would not be in the public interest. This is the first time that information of this kind has been released to the public, and the ruling opens up possibilities for making a more comprehensive examination through the Freedom of Information Act of the treatment and mistreatment of animals in laboratories.

Among the information that PETA has received are veterinary records and details from the government “project licence” which permitted the experiments. The release of details from the project licence brings to light for the first time in-depth information that would allow for a challenge of the claimed scientific justifications for the experiments and of the university’s rationale for why primates were used. It would also allow interested parties to question what steps the experimenters took (and failed to take) to reduce the number of animals used, to limit animals’ suffering or to replace the use of animals with non-animal methods. The unprecedented level of detail will also permit a more complete evaluation of the Home Office’s decision to authorise the experiment, which had been placed under a classification of experiments that cause the most severe suffering legally permitted in the UK. PETA is currently considering whether to appeal to the Information Tribunal – the public body which is one level of authority up from the ICO – to gain access to additional details that are still being withheld.

“The people have a right to information about animal experiments, especially when they’re paying for them”, says PETA’s Alistair Currie. “Felix was trotted out for the cameras, but Oxford didn’t let anyone see how his brain was destroyed or how he died. Oxford decided that the public should take the university’s assurances about this research on trust alone. We hope this decision will allow a concerned public to learn not what researchers decide it should know but what it has a right to know.”

PETA’s correspondence with Oxford and the ICO is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.uk.