AN article in the Daily Telegraph, April 10th, has prompted a series of enquiries to the government’s angling spokesman, Martin Salter MP.


The Telegraph headlines trumpeting “Fox hunting shadow over ‘fish feel pain’ debate” and “Angling to face new inquiry into cruelty” wrongly claimed that the Home Office is investigating whether fish feel pain in the context of angling.

In fact, the Home Office is doing no such thing. The Animal Procedures Committee (APC) which, is an independent advisory committee that sets its own agenda and provides advice to the Home Office on the use of animals in scientific experiments, has decided to examine the use of fish in scientific procedures.


Martin Salter said:

“Anyone with the merest scrap of political nous will recognise that the Daily Telegraph is the ‘house paper’ of the fox hunters and their allies who are desperate to try and portray our pro-angling Labour government as somehow being a threat to all country sports. It is clear from an examination of the facts that the work of the APC has no bearing on the future of angling which, in any case, does not come within the remit of the Home Office.


He added:

“Angling has the enthusiastic support in word and deed of the Labour Party. Attempts to suggest that a piece of unrelated research by on advisory committee will cause a policy shift by government ministers, are not just wide of the mark, they constitute scaremongering. I have spoken personally to the Home Office Minister responsible for animal experimentation, Andy Burnham, and he assures me that there will be no read across from the APC study to angling by the government. Andy has thousands of coarse anglers in his Leigh constituency and is an enthusiastic supporter of angling.”


Briefing from Richard West, Home Office Secretary to the Animal Procedures Committee


The Home Office is not investigating angling.  The Home Office has no responsibility for angling – that is DEFRA’s responsibility.


The Home Office is responsible for issuing licences for the use of protected animals in scientific and experimental procedures.


The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) covers all vertebrates, including fish, and one invertebrate (Octopus vulgaris) are protected.  A scientific or experimental project using animals must be licensed if it has the capacity to cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.


The Animal Procedures Committee (APC) is an independent advisory committee that advises the Home Office on aspects of the use of animals in scientific procedures.  It can advise on matters referred to it by the Home Office, or as the Committee may determine.


It is the case that the APC (not the Home Office) has decided to examine the use of fish in scientific procedures.  This work will be taken forward by the APC’s Housing and Husbandry Sub-Committee.


The work will include an investigation of whether fish can feel pain.  That is because fish – after rats and mice – are the third most commonly used species in scientific procedures.  Under ASPA a project licence will not be issued unless the applicant can demonstrate that animals of the lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity are to be used.  Thus, any information about the capacity of fish to feel pain would be of relevance when making such assessments.


Further information about the APC’s intended work on fish can be seen on the APC website  Please see APC(05)26 in the “published papers” section of the website, which sets out what the APC intends to do.


Background about the APC:-


The Animal Procedure Committee




The Animal Procedures Committee (APC) was set up under sections 19 and 20 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The Act applies throughout the United Kingdom and requires the licensing of any experiment or other scientific procedure carried out on living, protected animals which may cause them pain, suffering distress or lasting harm. It protects all vertebrate species (except man) – that is mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish – and one invertebrate species, Octopus vulgaris. The Act also requires the licensing of places where certain species of animal are bred for use in regulated procedures. The species whose breeding is regulated in this way are primates, dogs, cats, all of the most common type of rodent used in scientific research, rabbits, quail and both sheep and pigs “if scientifically modified”.



The role of the APC


The role of the APC is to provide the Home Secretary and the Department of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland (DHSSPSNI) with independent advice about issues relating to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and his functions under it. Its members are experts from a wide variety of backgrounds, appointed by the Home Office and DHSSPSNI Ministers. Under section 20 of the Act, the APC can devise its own agenda and offer advice on any issue which it thinks relevant. But it must also deal with any question which Ministers refer to it. Whatever issue the APC looks at, the law requires it to take into account both of the legitimate requirements of science and industry and of the protection of animals against unavoidable suffering and unnecessary use in scientific procedures.


Please find below link to the paper about the APC’s intended fish work.