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South Africa's Shame: Secret Animal Experimentation

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23 APRIL 2009



April 24th is World Day for Animals in Laboratories (WDAIL). Every year on the 24th April worldwide attention is drawn to commemorate the suffering and abuse of animals used in research laboratories, agricultural facilities and the development of arms and other weapons.

Vivisection literally means the 'cutting up' of living animals, but has now become more generally used as the term for all experiments on living animals (in vivo) as many animal experiments, such as toxicity tests, will not involve surgical procedures. The use and killing of animals in experimental laboratories and for teaching purposes involves enormous cruelty, untold suffering, pain and death.

It is estimated that the vivisection industry kills over 200 million animals annually. Vivisection is experimentation on living animals (many of these are threatened or endangered species). Millions of creatures ranging from primates, fish, octopi, birds, mice, rats, horses, dogs, cats, pigs and reptiles are subjected to terror, pain, deprivation and eventually the taking of their lives by scientists often concerned only with the continuance of their research grants and the entrenchment of outdated, flawed research methods.

The animal experimentation lobby spends millions annually to convince the public that all medical advances are directly due to animal experimentation. However, the list of disasters unleashed on the public after testing on animals, is legendary including asbestos, benzene, thalidomide and tobacco, which proved to have no ill-effect on the research animals. Conversely, many beneficial drugs were held back because they proved deadly to the animals, including penicillin, digitalis, streptomycin, aspirin, cyclosporine and ibuprofen. There are countless non-animal alternatives available, that are both more accurate and do not involve the suffering of living creatures.

The situation in South Africa is one of widespread secrecy and unaccountability and animal experimentation is generally conducted under a shroud of secrecy. Of all the industries in South Africa that exploit and utilise animals the vivisection industry is by far and away the most non-transparent, unaccountable and secret. To make informed decisions, as individuals and in the wider social and medical context, the public and decision makers need access to information. Achieving transparency and public accountability is important because it will help to protect animals against the harms they suffer when used in research and will reveal the conditions under which animals live and die in research laboratories. For the past two decades there has been a call to the industry, researchers and the State by anti-vivisection and animal rights organisations in South Africa for animal

experimentation to be more transparent and open to the public and objective scrutiny and for research institutions to be "open and forthcoming" about their animal use. Unfortunately, despite this, no progress has been achieved.

Spokesperson for Animal Rights Africa (ARA), Michele Pickover says that "vivisection is completely out of control in South Africa and of enormous concern is that there is disinterest by State agencies to adequately monitor the sector, there is lack of public awareness and totally insufficient enforcement It is intolerable that this industry is totally out of step -- not only in terms of our Constitution - but also in terms of international best practice. No accurate or official list of institutions, contract laboratories, government agencies or pharmaceutical companies that conduct animal experiments in South Africa exists. There is no accountability to the public either by the government or by laboratories who use animals. It is time for the lab doors to be unlocked and the industry and researchers to be exposed to proper public scrutiny."

Contact persons for ARA:
Steve Smit 082 659 4711

Michele Pickover: 082 253 2124
E.mail : info@animalrightsaf

ARA website : www.animalrightsafr

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