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BUAV condemns cruel animal experiments by major food companies to prove ‘health benefits’

21/06/2013

The BUAV has today released findings of research showing cruel and unnecessary animal tests carried out by some of the world's leading food giants, Yakult, Danone, Nestlé and Unilever. 

Animal experiments have been carried out in an attempt to identify the ‘health benefits’ of certain foods to feed the growing infatuation with ‘super foods’. Companies have become increasingly interested in assessing whether foods are ‘good for you’ and want to be able to make claims about their products and exploit the discovery of a so-called ‘health benefit’.  The animals subjected to the experiments we uncovered included mice, rats, rabbits and pigs. The research is recent, having been published in the past two years. The experiments can involve artificially inducing the signs of a disease or illness in the animals.  This involves genetically engineering animals to possess human genes or injecting them with chemicals or infectious bacteria.  Not only do animals suffer the painful effects of conditions such as colitis and stomach injury but such animal ‘models’ are poor representations of complex and long-running human conditions.

Examples include: 

•          To investigate products containing Hoodia gordonii, a spiny African shrub (which is already used as a weight management supplement for the treatment of obesity), rabbits and mice were subjected to a reproductive toxicity test. Pregnant rabbits and mice were force fed extracts of the plant throughout their pregnancy for 25 days. The day before the animals were due to give birth, they and their unborn foetuses were killed and examined. (Unilever) 

•         In order to determine if consuming Yakult’s probiotic yoghurt drink can protect humans from stomach injury, rats were starved for 20 hours and then force-fed a single dose of probiotic bacteria, through a stainless steel tube inserted down their throats into their stomachs. Two hours later, their stomachs were damaged when they were force fed a solution containing hydrochloric acid. The animals were left to suffer for one hour before they were killed so that their stomachs could be dissected and examined. (Yakult)  

•         To explore the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of Goji berries (also called wolfberries), mice were fed a new preparation created by Nestlé called Lacto-Wolfberry, (a water-dispersible powder containing 50% wolfberry and 25% skimmed milk). After seven days of feeding, the mice were given an injection of a chemical irritant directly into their rectums to cause colon disease. Due to the resulting abdominal pain, the mice stopped eating and had to be force-fed the Lacto-Wolfberry for the next five days. The animals were then killed and their colons dissected. (Nestlé) 

•         In an attempt to prove that the consumption of a new multi-nutrient drink created by Danone (FortasynTM Connect) can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, three-month old mice, who had been genetically modified to develop certain characteristics of Alzheimer’s, were fed the drink for three months. Some of the mice died for unknown reasons during the experiment. At the end of the study, the animals were killed and their brains dissected and analysed for signs of improvement. (Danone) 

This type of research is not only cruel but also unnecessary as many of the health benefits of food and probiotics are already known from existing human data. Since these foods are already being consumed by consumers it is entirely possible to use human trials to assess the positive effects on skin, obesity, stomach problems and colitis.

The BUAV Head of Science Dr Katy Taylor stated:

'The public will be shocked to learn that these well-known and familiar high street brands are involved in sickening experiments on animals. It is unacceptable that animals should be made to suffer by companies in an effort to make 'health benefit' claims about their products. The BUAV is calling on all food giants to immediately stop experimenting on animals to test food products and ingredients by switching to humane alternatives or using existing data.”