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THE PROPOSED VOLUNTARY CODE ONCE AGAIN A "VIVISECTOR'S CHARTER"


      In Snout 15 we elaborated how, since 1998, SAAV has been calling for transparency and accountability in the vivisection industry. At the time, the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (DALA) had promised that a special interest group consisting of all stakeholders would be convened to take the matter forward.
      It subsequently came to SAAV's notice that apparently secret meetings to draw up a 'Code of Ethics' were being held by a committee consisting of the NSPCA, Standards South Africa (STANSA) and the South African Association of Laboratory Animal Sciences (SAALAS). No other specialist interest groups were invited, in spite of the fact that STANSA, the NSPCA, SAALAS and the DALA were well aware of the existence of such groups and their wish to be included.
      Although SAAV had made it abundantly clear that the whole process was flawed, their comments were ignored. This deeply flawed process has now led to the production of a flawed document, once again based on the concept of self-policing ethics committees which are of no value in looking after the interests of laboratory animals.
      After years of complaining about the undemocratic, exclusive, process SAAV, together with Beauty without Cruelty, was eventually invited to a meeting to discuss the proposed 'code of practice' based, as it is, on a deeply flawed concept document, once again in danger of being dubbed a 'vivisectors' charter.' SAAV's request, that they begin the process again, was ignored, and it appeared that participation was restricted to the making of technical and language-type changes to the already conceptually flawed document.
      SAAV pointed out, right at the outset, that if they were going through the process of setting up codes of practice, they needed to know what the industry was about - after all, how can you set a standard when all their activities are hidden? SAAV also suggested an audit of the industry - who, where, what animals, etc. This was, of course, totally ignored.
      To be noted was the fact that, although they are forever claiming to be doing important research "for the benefit of mankind," the industry was overwhelmingly represented by veterinarians and other non-medical researchers, of whom not one had spent five minutes at the bedside of a sick patient. And the lack of compassion was evident from the way in which animals were generally referred to as "die goed" (the things).
      The overall impression was that, once again, South Africa is being faced with a "vivisectors' code" which will have no teeth, because of its self-monitoring, voluntary nature.
      What is urgently needed is a central, monitoring mechanism, made up of independent people, and a total overhaul of the existing Animal Protection Act.


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