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Animal testing at our universities

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As a committed vegetarian, animal shelter volunteer and general lover of all Gods’ creatures, I was shocked, if not utterly appalled, at the recent news of 150,000 deaths of animals due to lab testing at The University of Manchester.

As a much contested issue, the role of animals in medical research is in constant dispute and recently it seems all the secrets that we as a pet loving society play ignorant to are coming out.

The expectation of companies such as Huntington Life Sciences Ltd on the disgusting and mostly unnecessary use of animals for testing is constantly hit by animal rights activism groups such as SHAC, but the new outrage of animal testing at our universities is taking off a more personal, public level.

The idea that monkeys are given Parkinson’s disease, goats are fitted with pacemakers and mice are modified for kidney failure makes myself shudder with anger. But it was the recent outbreak of the story of Cardiff’s Kittens that really sparked the public to hit back with comments about the ethics of animal testing.

Over the duration of the experiment period, 30 new-born kittens were raised for 12 weeks in the dark, before having their eyes sewn shut for one week whilst scientists monitored the brain’s response to sensory deprivation. Student forums all over the world lit up with furious comments from a variety of students including those studying at Cardiff University, highlighting how appalling the news was, and how the kittens were put down after the experiment instead of being rehomed.

The controversy caught the attention of celebrities such as Ricky Gervais who commented that the experiment was “sickening” and he was “appalled that such a thing could be done.”

Cardiff University’s experimental work involving animals (available online, from February 2010) highlights in bold how Cardiff University strongly supports the intention and purpose of the animals using the Scientific Procedures Act 1986 which, under Home Office supervision, rigorously controls experimental work involving animals. The document provides information on how the animals used are ‘almost exclusively’ laboratory-bred rodents and fish and the use of animals is avoided and alternative methods employed.

The experiment that ended in 2010 was approved by both the University's ethical review process and the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit as part of the licensing process, but Dominic Sullivan, Director of Legal Services for the Cats Protection said: “We are not sure why Cardiff University used cats in this case. The law is quite clear; a licence cannot be granted by the Home Office to use cats in scientific experiments unless animals of no other species are suitable for the purpose of the programme. This might be the case in, say, developing a cat vaccine.”

A Cat vaccine! The 30 murdered kittens were used in an experiment to help find a cure for children with lazy eyes; no cat vaccine there.  We as students owe a duty to these 30 murdered kittens to ensure that the universities we attend do not act in the same ignorant and atrocious manner. We must promise to form societies, committees and other groups to monitor the experimentations that go on all around us, right under our noses, to prevent something like this from happening again without our knowledge.

As for finding a cure for children with lazy eyes, as a former lazy eye victim, the stick on eye patch I wore for a year in reception sorted mine out perfectly. The reward from my parents for committing to wearing the eye patch for 6 hours every day? Two beautiful little kittens that grew up and were part of our family for years.




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