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BUAV calls on the UK Government to stop allowing animals to suffer in tests

13th July 2011

BUAV investigation saves animals from cruel tests

The BUAV has welcomed the outcome of a review by the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) into unnecessary animal testing of some veterinary drugs. This developments comes as the Home Office announces a shocking 3% increase in the number of animal experiments in 2010 (3.7 million experiments were started on 3,642,517 animals)

The review by the VMD found that 26 veterinary drugs were being tested on animals when there was no international regulatory requirement to do so. This has prompted a change in the licences for all 26 drugs, sparing an estimated 38,000 animals over the next 5 years.

The review by the Government agency came about as a consequence of the BUAV investigation into Wickham Laboratories in Hampshire in 2009. Our investigation found that the laboratory was conducting horrendous rabbit and mouse tests for some veterinary drugs that international regulations no longer required.

The BUAV raised its concerns with the VMD and was pleased that the VMD instantly launched a review into the drugs it licences. The agency found 26 veterinary products still had a redundant animal test listed in their licence -- i.e. it was no longer required by International regulations. The VMD wrote to the companies and has confirmed to the BUAV this week that all 26 products will no longer be tested on animals. The companies have either submitted a successful application to remove the need for the animal test from their licence or have promised to not animal test until they have done so.

The animal tests were:

Pyrogenicity test- this test assesses the likelihood that any contaminant of injectable drug products will cause a fever reaction. It involves restraining rabbits in 'stocks' by their necks, injecting the substance in their ear vein and taking their temperature over several hours via a probe inserted deep into their rectums. Rabbits are starved of food and water before and during the test and are typically held in the stocks for 8 hours at a time. Rabbits are repeatedly re-used in these experiments, unless they show a reaction in which case they are killed. International regulators have agreed that for most drugs an alternative, in vitro test is a better test.

Abnormal toxicity test- this even cruder test is a 'catch- all' to determine if a drug is likely to cause any other, unforeseen reaction when injected into a human patient. It involves injecting samples of the drug into the abdominal cavity of mice. If the mice die then the batch of drug is withdrawn. It was largely deleted from international requirements years ago as it was considered unreliable and unnecessary, and yet, for unknown reasons, still persists for a few drugs.

Dr Katy Taylor, the BUAV�s scientific adviser says; 'We welcome the prompt action taken by the VMD. We estimate their action alone will spare over seven thousand animals every year. Nonetheless, it is an absolute disgrace that animals have continued to be used for years in tests that were no longer required by international regulations. Once again it calls into question the claims by the Home Office and research industry that animals are only used when absolutely necessary. The Home Office should be enforcing this legal requirement and regulators given the power to force companies to keep up to date with scientific and regulatory requirements in order to reduce animal experiments."

Further information and images from our investigation can be found here:

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