University approves £5m “animal holding facility” for research

Published

Sam Wigglesworth and Gina Mete

The Glasgow University Court has approved an investment which allows for the development of a controversial “clean animal holding facility”. This is part of a £775m Campus Estates Strategy that was approved on 24 February 2015.

£5m of this sum, which will be paid for by the University, will be given to develop animal holding facilities at the Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre (GBRC) and the Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre (GCRC). These bodies are part of the University, but undertake research for commercial purposes.

This has raised concerns that this facility could increase the amount of animal testing undertaken on campus.

Liam King, SRC Vice-President Student Support and running candidate for SRC President, broke the information to students at the SRC sabbatical hustings on 3 March 2015. He claimed that he had not been a part of any consultation about this and only found out that day, when the communications office of the University sent out a newsletter to staff via email.

King said: “This issue just goes to show how hollow the University’s consultations on the Western Infirmary has been. £450m of spending has now been approved and not once have the wider student body been consulted on the prospect of Glasgow hosting another significant animal research facility.”

The developments contradict the University Policy on Animal Testing, which states: “The University is committed to the development of a number of alternative methods such as computer modelling, tissue culture, cell and molecular biology, and research with human subjects.”

Breffni O’Connor, SRC President, commented: “Staff communications are prioritised by the University, evidenced by weekly staff newsletter and dedicated staff team who lead on staff communications specifically. But no measures were put in place to inform students about the interesting, and in this case, controversial news, in spite of the fact that it is students’ tuition fees that are paying for a large portion of this 10 year capital plan. In a time of great change; of the campus development, of the University Strategy being developed, the University, and University Court, needs to be more transparent so students know how their fees are being spent, how decisions are made and why.

“The issue surrounding animal testing facilities has been raised with me previously by students, and due to it being an ethical issue I cannot speak out on an SRC stance unless a motion has been previously brought to our Council, and voted on by Council members. As I was unaware that this information was being made public today, I have not yet made Council aware of this.”

Glasgow Guardian revealed in July 2014 that the University had doubled its use of animal testing in 6 years, after the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) discovered that a number of top UK universities, including the University of Glasgow, had been performing controversial experiments on animals, including cats as recently as 2007.

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said:“The proposed animal facility will ensure we have up-to-date accommodation for research animals on campus. It is not intended to facilitate a significant increase in the amount of animal research conducted by the University. Also, the research we conduct on animals is not for commercial purposes – it supports areas such as cancer and cardiovascular research.

“There has been full consultation on the Estates Development Strategy with the SRC who have a position on Court meetings. The SRC is able to raise issues on any topic with University management at any time.

“Animal research remains a necessary part of cutting-edge medical research. We do not use animals lightly – a strong case must be made and all other alternatives explored before any procedure is sanctioned.

“The University of Glasgow is not involved in the research with kittens cited by the BUAV, and we have made this clear before.”

The Campus Estates Strategy also involves the investment of the Learning & Teaching Hub, improvements to Gilbert Scott Building to support Adam Smith Business School, and refurbishment of existing major buildings including the Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Life Sciences.