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Home Office finds Wickham Laboratories guilty of causing unnecessary animal suffering

30/11/2010

Today the Home Office has released a report on Wickham Laboratories which finds breaches in animal testing licenses issued to the company.

The BUAV has welcomed some of the findings of the Home Office Inspectorate’s Review into Wickham Laboratories, including the fact that infringement proceedings are being considered against the institution. The Report substantiates many of the BUAV’s findings following an undercover investigation in 2009.

Key findings include:

1) Mice routinely died in cruel poisoning tests rather than being “humanely” killed by staff – a clear breach in the institution’s Government project license;

2) Staff incompetence in the way mice were killed led to their suffering – including the practice of neck breaking with a pen on the corridor floor;

3) Key staff did not carry out their legal responsibilities under the Animals Scientific Procedures Act, including the Named Veterinary Surgeon not ensuring rabbit welfare;

4) Staff training in the monitoring and killing of animals was poor;

5) There was a lack of enforcement of available non-animal alternatives;

In addition, the report highlights a potential conflict of interest with the Named Veterinary Surgeon, responsible for animal welfare, being a major company shareholder

Despite the above findings, the BUAV are disappointed that the Home Office have failed to properly investigate whether the drugs tested at Wickham Laboratories necessitated animal tests, in particular whether such tests were required by national and international regulators. 

Following the BUAV’s investigation, it has emerged that one of the companies commissioning tests on rabbits at Wickham has since moved to non-animal alternatives and the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate have launched a review into the use of rabbits for pyrogenicity testing. The Home Office investigation is a missed opportunity to review the need for animal tests across the institution and has seen the Government wash their hands of their responsibility to enforce non-animal methods.

BUAV Chief Executive, Michelle Thew said: “We are pleased that the Home Office has substantiated many of the BUAV’s findings, some of which echo our previous investigation of this establishment. We are very disappointed, however, that an opportunity to properly enforce non-animal methods has been missed. Yet again, despite the Government’s claim that we have the best animal-testing regulations in the world, our investigation has clearly shown unnecessary animal suffering and law-breaking in a UK establishment.  In light of this report, we call upon the Government to remove the license from Wickham Laboratories and urgently ensure that the available non-animal alternatives are used.”

Read about our original investigation inside Wickham Laboratories