Problems Communicating with the OU

Students for Ethical Science have to request reports and other papers relating to the OU's animal use, such as the annual report from the Biology Department to the Animal Ethical Committee (AEC) and the minutes of AEC meetings. We are never offered them or alerted to their existence.

We then submit queries and comments on the documents to the Science Administrator. The Science Administrator tells us that our comments have been passed to the AEC for consideration at the next meeting. Then nothing. We get no notification, such as a letter stating that our submissions were considered at a meeting and/or what the committee had decided.

The only sign that we may be having some input to OU policy is when we get the next report and find changes in line with our comments or, as more recently, we find by word of mouth or via the OU website that there are new non-animal courses apparently replacing animal-harming ones.

We have no idea whether the information we have sent the Science Faculty (including a book and a video) about animal-free experiments, or our notification to the Science Faculty of a report on the use of animals in higher education, have been followed up or just ignored. We have been told that the comprehensive details of a plant alternative which we sent to the Science Faculty were never passed on to staff involved with the course, and that this was eventually done by a sympathetic tutor.

We have been refused sight of an AEC report on the ethical issues in undergraduate teaching in biology courses.

We have been repeatedly told by science staff that we should be working with the OUSA reps on the Animal Ethical Committee and Science Faculty Board, but correspondence to these reps has gone unanswered. It appears that some has never even been passed on to them. After many abortive attempts to contact the reps we were told by OUSA officers that we should not be going via the reps but via certain OUSA Vice-Presidents (VPs).

The reports published by the OUSA reps and VPs never refer to what they are doing to advance OUSA policy on animal experimentation, which has been in existence since at least 1991. So for all we know, they have done nothing at all to this end for 13 years or more.

The apparent major errors in the 2002 report from the Biology Department to the AEC, which appear to have gone unnoticed by the AEC, give us considerable concern that the committee is not sufficiently rigorous in its scrutiny of OU animal experimentation. Other than rare visits from the few Home Office inspectors who have to monitor over two and a half million animal experimental procedures every year, the AEC is THE scrutinising body for the OU, and its effective functioning is crucial.

In light of these shortcomings, it often appears that only Students for Ethical Science are both willing and able to scrutinise OU animal use. Yet we are denied formal input or information on proceedings.