BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 17:17 GMT
Head-to-head: Animal testing

The row over animal experimentation is hotting up as the UK's largest contract research organisation, Huntingdon Life Sciences, struggles for financial survival.

Sarah Kite, head of investigations and research at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), explains why she believes testing on animals is unethical while Andrew Blake of the campaign group Seriously Ill for Medical Research argues that it can mean life or death for some people.

Why I support Huntingdon Life Sciences

By Andrew Blake

open quote

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is the UK's largest contract research organisation (CRO) and does more than just preclinical animal safety testing (see box).

In fact, the majority of CRO employees are analysts who analyse soil, plants, water, human blood samples and, yes, some animals.

They are becoming increasingly involved in most stages of the development of medicines and other products.

The close integration of CROs and the pharmaceutical companies means attacks on HLS are really an attack on all medical research.

What does a Contract Research Organisation do?
Develops and safety tests human medicines
Ensures new agrochemicals are not environmentally damaging
Tests and develops new animals treatments
Tests safety of industrial and domestic chemicals
tests and develops foods with additional health benefits (nutraceuticals)
For instance, CROs are helping to develop therapeutic proteins in sheep's milk, animal organs for human transplants (xenotransplantion), cancer treatments, antibiotics, anti-rheumatics, vaccines, anti-epileptics, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's treatments and many more besides.

The intimidation and violent actions of anti-vivisection protesters are deplorable.

These "animal rights terrorists" hold a fanatical belief that animal research does not work.

But most disturbing is the arrogant attitude that because they have an obscure view of life, then everyone else, including patients, should be forced to live life according to their opinions.

For fit and healthy people, which most anti-vivisectionists are, animal research may not seem so important but for seriously ill people, it is a matter of life or death.

close quote

Why animal experiments are unethical

By Sarah Kite

open quote

BUAV is dedicated to ending animal experiments through legal, peaceful action. We are opposed to violence against both humans and animals.

The animal research industry on the other hand commits violence against millions of laboratory animals every year.

Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is Europe's largest contract testing laboratory.

It conducts toxicity (poisoning) tests on animals on behalf of the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and chemical industries.

It is ethically unacceptable to inflict suffering on one species in the hope of trying to help another

Sarah Kite
These range from chemicals being dripped into the animals' eyes, injected into their bodies, forced up their nostrils or forced down their throats. Anaesthetics are not normally given.

In each case, HLS is looking for signs of poisoning - symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, bleeding and fits.

Those animals that do not die during the experiment will be killed at the end of it.

BUAV believes it is not only ethically unacceptable to deliberately inflict pain and suffering like this on one species in the hope of trying to help another, but also animal experiments do not reliably predict what will happen in humans because of differences between species.

For example, for every 20 possible drugs regarded as "safe" using animal studies, only one will pass clinical trials. That is a success rate of 5%.

Fighting for survival

HLS is currently at the centre of controversy for good reason.

For decades the public was told by the animal research industry and government officials that the UK should be seen as a model for the rest of the world and laboratory animals were well cared for by competent, trained individuals and overseen by experienced Home Office inspectors.

But this all changed when in 1997 an undercover investigation at HLS exposed graphic evidence of extreme animal cruelty as well as serious breaches of the law.

Revelations included beagle puppies being hit and shaken, staff repeatedly stabbing dogs with needles, sloppy scientific practice and standards of housing which failed to meet government guidelines.

It is therefore not surprising HLS finds itself fighting for survival.

During the past four years its share price has plummeted and it has found itself abandoned by client companies and financial investors alike not wishing to be associated with such a controversial company.

HLS has found the stigma of animal cruelty is very difficult to shake off.

close quote

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

18 Jan 01 | UK
A controversial laboratory
18 Jan 01 | Business
Lab firm awaits key loan decision
18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Animal demos may prompt law change
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories