Leading international authority on animal experiments joins Stop UBC Animal Research in campaign against UBC’s research on non-human primates
VANCOUVER (January 10, 2010) – Today, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), one of the world’s leading authorities on animal research issues, joined the Vancouver group, Stop UBC Animal Research (STOP), in calling on the University of British Columbia (UBC) to end its brutal experiments on monkeys. The London-based BUAV and STOP discovered that UBC researchers were subjecting monkeys to electric shocks to induce seizures, blinding monkeys by severing their optic nerves and causing painful increases in pressure within the animals’ eyes, and inserting tubes into the abdomens of pregnant monkeys to inject foreign material into their fetuses to cause kidney damage. The fetuses were later killed. The animal advocates said it is likely the monkeys felt “pain and terror” during some of the experiments.
“British Columbians need to ask themselves if they are really willing to close their eyes to the torment and despair suffered by these animals, let alone to fund this type of research through their tax dollars and charitable donations,” said Anne Birthistle, an investigator for Stop UBC Animal Research who helped uncover UBC’s experiments on monkeys. “How do we teach our children compassion when we force animals to endure a life of traumatic use in a laboratory? We have to demand that new, cutting-edge scientific techniques be used and relegate to the past these experiments UBC finds too shameful to fully disclose to the public,” Birthistle said.
A BUAV veterinarian, along with STOP, who reviewed the UBC studies found that:
Six rhesus macaques were deliberately given electric shocks. Electrodes were applied to their heads through which the shocks were given, apparently to cause seizures. For this the monkeys were only given a sedative and a drug to paralyze them. There was no mention of pain relief. The sedative would not cause complete loss of consciousness and inability to feel and, therefore, the concern is whether they were capable of feeling pain and terror. Because they were paralyzed, they would not have been able to show outward signs of suffering. The animals were also subjected to the unpleasant consequences of repeated doses of anesthesia. There is no mention of what happened to the monkeys.
Six rhesus macaques were deliberately blinded in one eye by cutting the optic nerve and allowed to live after this brutal mutilation. A second group of monkeys had one eye deliberately damaged by laser to cause a painful increase in pressure known as glaucoma. The animals were allowed to survive this surgery and kept alive, without pain medication, for weeks before being killed.
Three pregnant rhesus macaques were used, probably off-campus at a facility in the US. A tube was inserted into the abdomen of the monkeys and then into the fetus where harmful particles were injected into the kidneys to cause damage. A few weeks before the fetuses would have been born, the mothers were subjected to abdominal surgery, the fetuses then removed and killed after which tissues were collected.
“Non-human primates are highly intelligent and sensitive animals. It is unacceptable that they should be subjected to such shockingly cruel and invasive experiments,” said Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis and Veterinary Consultant to the BUAV. “Moreover, despite the suffering and tragic loss of life, the findings in the monkeys are not relevant to humans. Elegant and sophisticated methods exist currently to study, in an ethical manner, human patients in an effort to gain knowledge that will be of benefit to them,” Buyukmihci said.
Though some of the experiments were performed by UBC researchers off the university’s campus, STOP and BUAV said the university was sanctioning cruel, invasive, and ultimately, lethal procedures. The organizations also said the experiments are not only unethical, but the researchers are vainly attempting to artificially induce in the monkeys simple symptoms of what are complicated diseases and conditions in humans. The groups said UBC should instead be focusing on non-animal methods that are not only humane, but are also far more applicable and relevant to humans.