UBC Vice President of Research Implies Cat Experiments May Continue

VANCOUVER (SEPTEMBER 16, 2010) – Today, a new campaign, Stop UBC Animal Research, called on the University of British Columbia (UBC) to permanently discontinue experiments on cats. The group discovered in August that some UBC researchers have a long history of performing highly invasive procedures on cats, including implanting devices into the cats’ heads, slicing open their spines, and drilling screws into the cats’ spinal columns.

“If your neighbour did this to your cat he’d be charged with animal cruelty. But when researchers do it, its called ‘science,'” said Stop UBC Animal Research spokesman Brian Vincent. “It is shocking UBC has sanctioned these incredibly invasive and painful experiments on cats for years, all with public money yet with little public scrutiny.”

Details in published papers reveal that one UBC researcher in particular has been experimenting on cats for 30 years and recently received a grant for continued animal research until 2013. Stop UBC Animal Research said it had no reason to doubt the UBC researcher would continue using cats in his work since cats have been his animal of choice for decades and for which his methods have been optimized. In a recent Georgia Straight article, “Stop UBC Animal Research Activists Question UBC Experiments on Animals,“ UBC Vice President of Research Dr. John Hepburn confirmed the cat experiments and indicated such research could continue. Dr. Hepburn said of the cat research, “That was invasive research, yes…I can say that we’re not doing it right now. But the difficulty with doing that is, I don’t want to imply that we’ll never do it again, because animals get used in research for valid scientific reasons.”

In his papers, one published in 2008, the UBC researcher describes how he has:


  • Implanted electrodes into cats’ foreheads, brains, bones behind the eyes, and neck muscles. Electrode wires were attached to a plug on a restraining device permanently fixed to the cats’ skulls.
  • Cut open the backs of cats to expose their vertebrae. Titaniumscrews were inserted into the cats’ spinal columns to inhibit movement. A restraint chamber was built around the cats’ exposed vertebra to give researchers access to the cats’ spinal columns and to fix the animals in a sitting position for recording sessions.
  • Drilled holes into cats’ spines and skulls into which probes were inserted.
  • Implanted the devices so measurements could then be taken of spinal cord neurons without having to use anesthetic

The UBC researcher’s current project, funded with taxpayer dollars through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), involves the study of the links between pain and sleep. To do this, the researcher implants animals with electrodes to measure neural activity, injects drugs into their brains, and deprives the animals of sleep. His stated objective is to treat narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and REM behavior disorder.

“Stop UBC Animal Research is sounding the alarm because we believe the public has a right to know UBC is using taxpayer money to implant electrodes into cats’ brains, slice open their backs, insert screws into the cats’ spinal columns, drill holes in their skulls, and permanently install restraining devices onto their heads,” said Vincent. “Do people really want their hard-earned money being used to inflict such pain and suffering on animals?”

Stop UBC Animal Research said the university should reveal how it has acquired cats for research. The group said it is unclear if UBC has been breeding cats on campus or purchasing them from other facilities. In addition, the group urged UBC to disclose if the sleep and pain study involved inducing pain (after all, the research is about the interactions of pain and sleep) and what methods were being used to deprive the animals of sleep.


Brian Vincent, 604-551-3324
Contact us for a copy of a published paper on a UBC cat experiment, as well as more details about the current CIHR-funded project.
Click here to download a factsheet about a UBC researcher’s experiment on cats.