- Freedom of Information questions
- Replies from Beverley Midwood
- Appeal to the OU Secretary
- Letter about BBC article
- Response from Fraser Woodburn
- Appeal to Information Commissioner
- Further response from Beverley Midwood
- Reply to Information Commissioner
- Decision Notice summary
- Animals used for Education
FoI 2009 Replies from Beverley Midwood
Doug Paulley's questions with Beverley Midwood's replies, received on 18th March 2009, are listed below.
Relating to the use of Animals and Animal Material at the Open University:
Question 1 the number of animals used for a) education and b) research at the Open University for each of the past 10 years
a) A spreadsheet showing the number of animals used for teaching purposes in the last 10 years is attached. (See Number of Animals used for Education)
b) The number of animals used for research purposes is information which is not recorded by the University in summary format. Project Licence holders are required to report to the Home Office and statistics are compiled by that Office. The information provided is required to be kept confidential under Home Office Regulations. It is an offence under Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act for anyone to release this information, so we are refusing this under Section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act - Prohibition on disclosure.
Question 2 where these animals are sourced from
Information about where animals are sourced from is being refused under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act - Commercial Interests. If this information is in the public domain these organisations may be the target of activities intended to disrupt their operations and commercial activities. There is also the possibility that the health and safety of individuals employed or connected to these organisations may be at risk because of these disruptions and so there is a further refusal under Section 38 of the Act - Health and Safety. It would not be in the public interest for disruptions of this kind to take place.
Question 3 the amount of animal tissue and other animal material used for a) education and b) research at the O U over the last 10 years
Information about the amount of animal tissue and other animal material used for education and research is not recorded by the University. So I am sorry this information is not held.
Question 4 where this tissue / material is sourced from
Information on where animal tissue is sourced from is being refused under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act – Commercial Interests.
If this information is in the public domain these organisations may be the target of activities intended to disrupt their operations and commercial activities. There is also the possibility that the health and safety of individuals employed or connected to these organisations may be at risk because of these disruptions and so there is a further refusal under Section 38 of the Act - Health and Safety. It would not be in the public interest for disruptions of this kind to take place.
Question 5 which courses currently involve the use of animal tissue
The following courses currently involve the use of animal tissue: SXR270, SXR374
Question 6 whether students on each courses involving experiments on animal tissue can opt out of the experiments
Students can opt out of experiments on animal tissue.
Question 7 whether the right to opt out is clearly advertised and whether or not it is frowned upon, formally or otherwise, or students otherwise discouraged from opting out of such experiments
Students are free to discuss their concerns with the course organisers and tutors. A student who decides to opt out is not frowned upon and nor will he/she be discouraged from doing so.
Question 8 what alternatives for such use of animal materials have been considered and why they have been discounted
The consideration of alternatives for use of animal material for teaching and research purposes is a requirement of legislation (Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act). The Open University Animal Use Statement can be read online.
Question 9 which named degrees, if any, are impossible to complete without students having to take part in experiments on animals
As students can opt out of experiments on animal tissue there are no named degrees that are impossible to complete without taking part in these experiments.
Question 10 how many and which animals are kept on Open University premises, why they are kept, and in what conditions they are kept
The numbers and types of animals kept on Open University premises vary from time to time. Information on the number and type of animals kept at any time is refused under Section 38 of the Freedom of Information Act - Health and Safety. If this information is in the public domain it may be possible to identify individuals and so their health and safety would be at risk if they were the target of activities intended to disrupt their teaching or research. It would not be in the public interest for the University's teaching and research to be disrupted in this way.
Any animals kept on the premises are kept in accordance with Home Office regulations.
Question 11 how the Open University ensures that animals on its premises are kept in as good conditions as possible
The University follows the Home Office regulations and Code of Practice concerning animals.
Question 12 what mechanisms the Open University has for ensuring that animals and animal tissue and other animal materials are sourced ethically
The University follows the Home Office regulations on the sourcing of animals and animal tissue, which include the requirement that such organisations have their own ethical committee.
Question 13 what mechanisms you have for informing students of their use of animals
The O U Courses and Qualifications website contains information about every course and the course descriptions state if experiments on animals or animal tissue take place on the course.
Question 14 what mechanisms you have for involving students in the monitoring of such use and the ethical basis for such use
The University asks for feedback from students attending these courses and further information is available to students on request. The ethical basis for the use of animals and animal tissues is expressed in the Ethics Statement available on the University's Life Sciences website.
Question 15 a copy of all correspondence relating to the request in December 2008 by OUSA’s V P Education for a report from the Biology Department on the Open University’s animal usage, including all internal staff emails on the issue and the report itself if it was produced
There are no internal emails or correspondence concerning the request from OUSA's Vice-President in December 2008. The report has not yet been produced. When it has been produced I will send you a copy of the information contained in it.
Question 16 a copy of all correspondence and documentation relating to the Animal Ethics Advisory Group, previously the Animal Ethical Committee, over the past year
Your request for all correspondence and documentation concerning the Animal Ethics Advisory Group in the last year is too wide, so please can you specify the information you are interested to see. It is likely that much, if not all, of the information is covered by a FOI exemption and so its redaction would exceed the appropriate limit of two and a half days work, as specified in Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act, especially when considered with the amount of time it has taken to complete the rest of your request. I am enclosing information about the Group that appears on the University's intranet site.
Question 17 information as to whether students participate in the A.E.A.G.; if so how they are selected and what experience they have of the area; if not, why not
Students do not participate in the A.E.A.G. The membership of University committees and groups is determined by the University's governance structure and student representation on this group is not a requirement.
Question 18 what links, if any, the Open University has with Huntingdon Life Sciences or its parent company, Life Sciences Research, both as a customer and in terms of investment
Please see the answer to 2. The University does not confirm or deny that it has a relationship with this organisation.
Question 19 what policy the Open University has on investment in animal research companies (in, amongst other things, its staff pension scheme) and how it is enforced
The University's investment policy does not allow investment in company shares. The University does not have its own pension scheme, and so staff contribute to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which has its own investment policies.
Question 20 whether the Open University are aware of any banks of voluntarily donated human tissue and cadavers for medical research use
The University is aware of voluntary donated human tissue.
Question 21 whether the O U use, or could potentially use, this tissue instead of using animal materials, and if not why not
Such human tissue is used where possible.
Question 22 in relation to SXR376: synthetic liquid media are supplemented with commercially available growth factors derived from animal serum; which types of growth factor are used?
We purchase a serum that is designed to support the growth of human cells in culture dishes. It is not broken down into its constituents and the exact nature of the growth factors within it are likely to vary from batch to batch and are also only known to the manufacturers.
Question 23 again in relation to SXR376: animal-derived biological molecules, such as antibodies, are used. Which antibodies and other biological molecules are used?
We use antibodies that recognise the key proteins that the SXR376 course is focussed upon, these being the human CCR5 protein, the human CD4 protein and the human CCL3L1 protein. In addition we use several secondary antibodies that recognise the 3 primary antibodies, one of which is linked chemically to a molecule called biotin and the other is linked to an enzyme called horse-radish peroxidise.
The only other animal derived biological molecules are used as blocking agents during various immuno-analysis stages; bovine serum albumin (BSA), serum and (cows') milk-derived proteins.
All these products are sourced commercially.