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UK Lab animals to be clubbed to death under EU directive

ActNow! | 05.09.2011 17:14 | Stop Sequani Animal Testing | Animal Liberation


Choosing to lower welfare standards to new EU Directive level.

Uncaged has discovered that the Government intends to adopt new EU rules that would allow newborn puppies, kittens, ferrets and fox cubs to be killed by a blow to the head.

The statement is buried in a lengthy Home Office Consultation Document setting out how it intends to implement a new EU law on animal testing [1].

The plans can be found on page 4 of an Appendix discussing proposed 'Methods of Killing' [2]. It supports the introduction of 'Concussion/percussive blow to the head' as a method of killing 'neonate' dogs, cats, ferrets and foxes - newborn animals up to a few weeks old.

In some countries, this method is occasionally used to euthanase farm animals. However, one veterinary handbook [3] states:

"Percussive blow to the head may not always result in death in small piglets and lambs. Restraint of the animal is necessary and may be stressful. Operator fatigue may lead to inefficient application and result in poor welfare to the animal. The method is physically exhausting for personnel."

Another veterinary textbook [4] describes this method of killing as "Manual Blunt Force Trauma", observing:

"Common acceptable tools used for manual blunt force include ball peen hammers, steel rods, wooden clubs and pipes... Consistency of delivery is a challenge, therefore manual blunt force trauma is questionable in terms of reliability and effectiveness... One of the big problems with blunt force trauma is that caring stockpeople who are good at taking care of infant animals often do not want to use this method."

Despite these warnings, Home Office officials comment that this method is: 'Likely to be humane'. This suggests a disturbing lack of regard for animal welfare on the part of the Government.

Many animal handlers in laboratories refuse to kill animals because they fear it will desensitise them [5]. If the traditional methods of killing, such as injection or gassing, are that disturbing, then this raises fears about the kind of callous mentality that will be fostered in people who destroy young animals in such violent fashion.

By proposing to allow this killing method, the Government is demonstrating that it is willing to ditch existing higher welfare standards in the UK.

Dr Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns Director, comments:

"The barbaric methods of the Canadian seal hunt are poised to arrive in British labs and breeding establishments. The only thing the Government appears to care about is any 'poor public perception', with no real concern whatsoever for the animals themselves."

General lack of regard for animal welfare and democracy

The Home Office consultation exercise on how it will 'transpose' the new EU Directive on animal experiments [6] into UK legislation will set the scene for animal experiments for a generation. Currently approximately 3.5 million animals are used in experiments likely to cause 'pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm' in the UK every year.

However, there is no reference to reducing animal experiments or reducing suffering as Home Office 'Transposition Objectives' in the consultation document (Paragraph 26). Also, there is no reference to respecting 'the ethical concerns of the public' as stipulated by the new Directive (Recital 12). Similarly, the Home Office has not considered the impact on animal welfare in its Impact Assessment [7]. Therefore, disregard for animal welfare is built into the very foundations of the Home Office strategy.

The Home Office intends to use the European Communities Act to impose new legislation area without proper parliamentary scrutiny. Uncaged believes that because this is an issue with enormous animal welfare, scientific and public interest implications, any new laws should be introduced as primary legislation to ensure full democratic accountability.

Many of the provisions in the EU law are weaker than existing UK measures and there is widespread concern that, under pressure from industry, the Government is determined to take this chance to lower many UK standards to the EU level. The Home Office Consultation document contains a vague reference to retaining some stronger UK measures, but analysis of the document reveals that these are relatively scarce.

These are some of the worst threats to animal welfare from the Home Office’s preferred options as outlined in the Consultation Document:

Could open door to more experiments on cats, dogs and horses
Permitting painful killing methods not currently allowed, such as decapitation of adult birds or smashing the heads of newborn puppies’ and kittens

Trying to ensure that no current animal experiments are prevented under new laws
Considering lowering competence standards of researchers

Intends that it will no longer be compulsory for researchers to inform Inspectors if they break regulations

Proposing even less independent assessment of experimental proposals
Allowing millions of poisoning tests on animals and the breeding of GM animals without proper assessment or accountability

Proposing to maintain excessive secrecy

Proposing to weaken current UK restrictions on the repeated use of an animal in experiments, which could lead to more prolonged, distressing ordeals for animals

Considering allowing even smaller cages for animals

Contemplating the decimation of the Inspectorate with some labs only visited every five years

Weakening the powers of ethical review bodies and national advisory committee

The Consultation Exercise formally closes on 5 September. In the following months the Home Office will consider submissions.

What you can do

Uncaged has produced a template consultation response for you, which can be downloaded here - the suggested answers are in green. It focuses on what we see as the most critical questions. You need to fill in the relevant details at the very start, and then edit it if you wish/as you see fit.

Please send it to:

Animals Scientific Procedures Division
Home Office
4th Floor, South-West
Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF


Please send a copy of this briefing to your MP as well to alert them to this looming danger - get their contact details from

Please send an urgent donation to support this crucial campaign, cheques or postal order payable to ‘Uncaged Campaigns’.

For further information, including links to the text of the new Directive, visit the Home Office Consultation webpage



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  1. Full text of the directive — AL