Last month, a London-based group that supports the use of animals in biomedical science began inviting the public to take an unusual digital tour of laboratories at four U.K. research institutions. At LabAnimalTour.org, users can watch a monkey with a bolt in its skull forage in its cage at a University of Oxford neuroscience lab and a technician check on some of the 8000 mice housed in one room at the Medical Research Council’s Harwell Institute. Another video shows researchers preparing a pig for surgery at the University of Bristol.
The tour—created by the nonprofit Understanding Animal Research (UAR), which is funded by groups including universities, companies, and charities—is part of a growing push by research institutions and funders in the United Kingdom and some European countries to open up about animal experiments. Faced several years ago with polls showing declining public support for animal research, institutions there began shedding their traditional queasiness about discussing the sometimes controversial work.
At the University of Bristol, where just 2 decades ago animal rights activists planted one bomb that damaged a major building and another that targeted a veterinary scientist, there was “complete positivity” about putting their animal research on display, says Maggie Leggett, the university’s director of communications. “We believe in openness. We are using taxpayers’ money. People have a right to know.”