UNIVERSITY research would result in hundreds of wild seals being blasted with noise greater than a jet plane taking off, animal welfare campaigners have claimed.
Campaigners from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) made the claims against St Andrews University as they filed a complaint to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
The group say the university has unfairly withheld the details of their sea mammal research centre’s development of methods to deter seals from attacking salmon farms along Scotland’s coast.
Salmon farmers often complain that seals are a major threat to their livelihood, with a single seal attack resulting in the loss of thousands of fish.
But BUAV activists have claimed that the university’s research is harmful to the mammals.
They say that mistreatment of the animals begins when they are captured in nets, and continues as blood samples are taken and distressed animals are anaesthetised.
They also say that some research has included blasting the seals with noise between 170-174 decibels, with the average take-off noise of a jet engine being around 120 decibels.
In 2014 the BUAV submitted a Freedom of Information request to the university, asking it to reveal the terms of the Home Office licence for their research.
The activist group say their request was denied after the university said the terms of the licence were an “internal communication”, and therefore exempt from the request.
But the animal welfare group say that releasing the details of the licence is in the public interest, and have expressed their concern that researchers and the Home Office have not adequately assessed the suffering of the animals.
Sarah Kite, director of special projects at the BUAV, said: “We are surprised and disappointed by the response we have received from St Andrews University to our reasonable request for information.
“These wild animals are subjected to the stress of capture and handling before being blasted with loud noises in publicly funded experiments which are clearly designed to test their fear responses.
“We strongly believe that it is in the public interest for further details of these distressing experiments to be released.”
A university spokesman said: “The matter is with the Scottish Information Commissioner. The university has responded to the commissioner’s initial request for information.”