An animal rights group has accused a university of creating a “veil of secrecy” over animal experiments.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) is calling on the University of Sussex to open up about procedures taking place on campus after bosses used a special exemption to block a Freedom of Information request.

The university claims the release of information could threaten the “health and safety” of staff and students.

BUAV, which IS against all experiments on animals, asked 73 universities to release details of their lab work.

Of all those approached, only Sussex refused, citing health and safety.

Michelle Thew, chief executive of BUAV, said: “There is widespread concern over the use of animals in research but an informed debate cannot take place under a veil of secrecy. The research industry has made claims of late over its commitment to openness and yet we have encountered closed doors at Sussex University under a clause which simply does not stand up.

“The public has a right to know what animals are being used in research and why.”

Alice Robertson, from the university’s office of governance, said they used “non-animal methods” where possible but said some research can only be conducted on living animals.

She added that the research plays an important part in the alleviation of “human and animal suffering” with current research including diabetes, cancer, muscle disease, drug addiction and obesity. While the testing is monitored by the Home Office, she declined to reveal details.

She said: “We have considered the public interest in this information, and although we recognise that there is some public interest in knowing details about the university’s research, we consider that there is a greater public interest in ensuring the health and safety of our staff and students in a publicly accessible campus.”

In March this year, The Argus reported that 940 animals were used in experiments by the University of Brighton in 2013. That included 858 mice.