Protestors highlight "horrific" Brookmans Park animal experiments

PUBLISHED: 10:36 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:13 20 February 2017

Animal Aid protestors holding a demo/vigil to protest against animal experiments at the Royal Veterinary College.

Animal Aid protestors holding a demo/vigil to protest against animal experiments at the Royal Veterinary College.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Animal rights campaigners demonstrated outside the Royal Veterinary College in Brookmans Park on Saturday, protesting against experiments they have branded "horrific".

A two-hour “peaceful vigil” at the campus in Hawkshead Lane was organised by the charity Animal Aid, which has used the Freedom of Information Act to probe research carried by the college, known as the RVC.

Campaign manager Jessamy Korotoga said: “Animal Aid and thousands of members of the public have contacted the college concerning their animal research programme.

“Our petition to the college currently has almost 7,500 signatures, which shows the strength of feeling there is amongst the public about this issue.

“Each of these signatories, along with Animal Aid, are telling the college that we expect a veterinary college to heal animals, not to deliberately harm them.

“By causing animals to suffer pain and distress, the RVC is doing the opposite of what people expect of it. We are urging the college to cease all animal research on both scientific and moral grounds.”

Animal Aid says the experiments include cross-breeding beagles with a serious muscular disease, inserting electrodes into Guinea fowl, and “surgically mutilating” pregnant sheep.

The charity has discovered that the college performed more than 9,700 procedures in 2014, rising to more than 11,000 in 2015.

A college spokeswoman responded: “Animals contribute to human society in a number of ways and veterinarians are committed to protecting the welfare of animals in all these uses.

“Importantly this is the case in scientific investigation and veterinarians are integral to ensuring that any compromise to health and welfare is limited to the absolute minimum and is justified by the potential benefits that might ensue.

“Society as a whole accepts the need for animals in research for the benefit of humans and the benefit of other animals, whilst requiring that alternative approaches are sought wherever possible and appropriate.

“Veterinarians are closely involved in regulating this process and the Named Veterinary Surgeon system is committed to protecting the animals, as required by law.

“All research conducted at the RVC, as at all other UK veterinary schools, has the potential to benefit our animal patients.

“The techniques we develop will always be applicable to veterinary patients, even if there is also human medical benefit.

“Companion animals in particular suffer many of the same disease problems that afflict people and the standard of healthcare we can offer our pets is dependent upon progressing our knowledge and continuing to push back the frontiers as to what is possible.

“Our referral hospitals are very much at the frontier of veterinary care – they can only continue to progress in their endeavours to offer the best treatment possible to our patients because of scientific advances.

“One of the many examples where the interplay between fundamental biomedical research, veterinary and human patient clinical research has proved extremely valuable is in cancer medicine.

“The way in which the immune response is regulated is very important in understanding why cancer cells are accepted by the body as normal and so allowed to grow and spread.

“The results of studies in genetically altered mice (undertaken in collaboration with human medical schools and university hospitals) have helped us to interpret data from veterinary patients with cancer, especially lymphoma, a very common cancer in middle-aged dogs and people.

“This work in mice is directly benefiting our canine patients in terms of new diagnostics that help us make more targeted treatment decisions and give owners a more accurate prognosis.

“We respect the rights of groups in society to challenge the way we do research and remain committed to the Concordat on Openness to facilitate genuine debate.

“However, there is a real contradiction in the claims by Animal Aid that it is inappropriate for a veterinary school, dedicated to making animals better, to be involved in research involving animals.

“It is precisely because we are so involved that we can offer the best treatment to those animals most in need.

“Anybody who has ever had to take their pet to a veterinary clinic is benefitting from these advances in just the same way as anyone requiring hospital treatment for themselves or their family benefits from medical research.

“In common with the rest of the community we are committed to reducing and refining the need for animals in research to identify new treatments with the benefits accruing for both veterinary and human patients.”

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