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71 students and members of the public gathered today in a silent vigil to demand transparency from the University in its experimentation on animals.

Midday at Wills: a group of 71 protesters, their faces half-covered by images of animals, gather in silent solidarity. Organisers Animal Justice Project think the University’s policy on animal testing is cruel, unfair and obscure.

Founder Claire Palmer says: ‘The University of Bristol, has refused to provide even the most basic info on the animals they’re testing on since 2013. Almost every other University in the UK provides the numbers and types of animals it uses. Bristol is still refusing – we’re still waiting for this to happen.’

‘90% of the animal experiments that happen in the UK are curiosity driven – meaning they don’t need to have clinical application.’

The University cites a lack of central record keeping as the reason for this omission, though in a previous report for Epigram in 2014 promised that it would ‘implement a centralised system so that data such as that requested is more readily available in 2015’.

A spokesperson for the University added at the time that ‘the university is not purposely withholding information and is committed to openness and transparency in this area’.

This perceived lack of transparency has proved to be fatal, and unjustly so, for huge numbers of pigs, cats, rabbits, mice, birds, frogs and ferrets, according to Claire. ‘The public generally support clinical research if they believe it produces results. But 90% of the animal experiments that happen in the UK are curiosity driven – meaning they don’t need to have clinical application. All of the experiments we have investigated at the university have been curiosity driven.’

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In a recent statement for Epigram, the University hit back at comments, saying “Scientists at the University of Bristol adhere to high standards of care and welfare in any work involving living animals. Work of this nature is governed by the Home Office, and the University has processes in place to ensure that we meet their requirements.”

They cite a recent project which developed cooling technology for babies at birth as an example of an advancement which could not have been made without animal subjects. The treatment ‘saves 1,500 babies from death and disability each year and is saving the NHS, and families, more than £200 million per annum’.

One project using animal testing is saving 1500 babies from death and disability each year.

This vigil marks the launch of a new campaign – ‘Campus without Cruelty’ to renew pressure for the release of such information, in collaboration with the University’s VegSoc.

Protesters, who included students and members of the community, urged students to not shy away from the thought of unnecessary animal suffering in the walls of their own University.

‘The University of Bristol, has refused to provide even the most basic info on the animals they’re testing on since 2013. Almost every other University in the UK provides the numbers and types of animals it uses’

Desdemona, an active campaigner urged: ‘It’s easy to think out of sight, out of mind. But we have to think hard about what’s going on here. These animals spend their entire lives suffering, where the only contact they have with anyone is someone hurting them. I think that’s wrong – I think that’s torture.”

One anonymous student initially refused to comment, but later warned: “if the University won’t listen to petitions, to protests, if they won’t fulfil their duties to transparency, then there’s a lot of people in Bristol who care enough to take direct action. It’s happened before, hasn’t it?”

Over half the 4.14 million animals experiments conducted in the UK last year were conducted in universities. However, the University remains confident that they are committed to ‘the reduction, refinement and replacement of animals used in scientific research’. They maintain though, that ‘alternatives have yet to be developed that can properly reproduce the complex biological characteristics of man and animals.’

Is the University being held accountable for its research on animals? Do the ends justify the means? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media.

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