Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Not a Happy Chinese New Year for UK Pigs

Posted: 16 February 2007

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Chinese New Year 4705 on February 18 will celebrate the pig, an animal valued by the Chinese for its excellent manners, its ability to make and keep friends, its hard work ethic and its appreciation of luxury*. However, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) reveals that in the UK thousands of pigs will suffer and die unnecessarily in laboratory experiments.

Home Office statistics reveal that in 2005, 3574 procedures were carried out on pigs in the UK. The most recent statistics available for the whole of the EU (2002) reveal 12,840 pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep and cattle were used in experiments per year.

Military research

2006 saw a dramatic increase in the number of live animals used in British Ministry of Defence (MOD) experiments, up 76% over the last five years to more than 21,000 animals including 555 pigs. Procedures on pigs subjected the animals to having their blood drained and being injected with Ecoli, while others received fatal doses of poison gas and lethal nerve agents.

Research at the MOD labs at Porton Down in Wiltshire has involved testing one of the world’s most deadly chemical warfare agents ever produced, known as VX, on pigs. 200 times more poisonous than sarin, three pigs died within three hours of the VX agent being dripped onto their skin; another pig lingered on, displaying signs of severe poisoning (twitching, salivation and difficulty breathing), before being killed.

GM Pigs

Genetically modified pigs suffer at every stage of their lives; from repeated surgeries, egg collection and implantation; from living in sterile barren environments; from the effects of the genetic modification itself. For example a gene ‘product’ can circulate all over the animal’s body and cause illness and suffering. For example, when the ‘Beltsville Pigs’ were given human growth hormone, the levels of the hormone circulating in their bodies produced lameness, gastric uclers, degenerative joint disease (arthritis), and enlarged hearts.

Some scientists believe that they can produce genetically modified pigs to grow organs for humans. But these pigs’ organs just carry a human gene to ‘trick’ the human immune system into accepting the organ. It is still a pig’s organ, with pig cells and enzymes. There is also a risk of introducing a new disease into the human population with such transplants.

Commercial testing

Contract testing laboratories (hired by companies to test any products from paint to pesticides) like Inveresk in Scotland are offering pigs to their clients for testing. Photographs obtained by NAVS of pigs inside the laboratory show these sociable, group-living animals alone in empty indoor pens, with nothing to stimulate or amuse them. Like pigs on factory farms, laboratory pigs live out their short lives indoors. In 2005 Inveresk laboratories was exposed by NAVS when leaked documents revealed poor laboratory practice and horrific animal suffering.

Lab animal dealers also offer specially bred “mini pigs” as a convenient new laboratory tool. When the NAVS, posing as an animal laboratory, approached one of these suppliers, Ellegaard Gottingen Minipigs, we were told the animals were an “alternative to dogs”.

Experiments flawed by species differences

The NAVS is concerned that laboratories may – for public relations reasons – start to move to pigs instead of dogs, despite that the animals have comparable intelligence, and certainly a comparable capacity to suffer.

Yet, research on pigs is fundamentally flawed due to the differences between humans and pigs. The apparent similarities can ignore the key differences at the cellular level, and therefore provide misleading results. This makes such tests unreliable as a way to predict likely effects in humans.

Jan Creamer said: “We hope that when people consider that this is ‘The year of the pig’ they will step back and consider how gravely mistreated these intelligent animals are in our society. The NAVS believes that pigs suffer greatly, especially in the confines of the laboratory. On top of that they have to endure shocking procedures. To make matters worse, the data collected from pigs can never be trusted when it comes to humans because of the clear differences between our species.”

Recorded differences in scientific data between humans and pigs

  • Pigs can be safely sedated with etorphine hydrochloride. It is toxic, sometimes fatal in people.
  • Unlike people, pigs can tolerate transplanted tissue for months without drugs to suppress the immune system.
  • Pigs are resistant to certain types of muscle relaxants used in people, for example, gallamine and suxamethonium
  • The spleen of pigs is different from that of humans

To help make it a happy Chinese New Year for pigs and other animals please visit our website and see what you can do to help.

*From http://www.infoplease.com

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