The BUAV is this year commemorating World Day for Animals in Laboratories (April 24th) by highlighting the plight of rabbits in UK research. World Day for Animals in Laboratories is an international event that commemorates the millions of animals who suffer and die in laboratories around the world.
This year, the day falls on Easter Sunday - a time associated with cute images of white fluffy Easter bunnies. Sadly, few people are aware of the reality of life for thousands of rabbits cruelly used in research.
In 2009, over 11,643 rabbits were used in over 16,000 experiments in UK laboratories*. Almost 1,000 of these individuals underwent toxicity (poisoning) tests where many would have been forced to consume various doses of agricultural and industrial chemicals and food additives. Thousands of other rabbits were used in the archaic and controversial pyrogenicity test.
A recent BUAV investigation at a UK contract testing facility, Wickham Laboratories, graphically exposed the suffering inflicted on these sensitive animals during these cruel tests - rabbits can be starved of food for up to 30 hours and then restrained by their necks in ‘stocks’ for at least six hours and injected with the test substance into an ear vein. Their temperature is recorded using a thermometer inserted as much as 7.5cm into their rectum.
Examples of other experiments published by researchers at UK laboratories in the past two years include:
1. An experiment to investigate the eye blink response in rabbits.
Electrodes were implanted into eye muscles of rabbits whilst under anaesthetic. This required considerable cutting up of eye tissues. Each rabbit was placed into a restraining box in a sound reducing chamber. Bursts of noise were then delivered through a loud speaker. What happened to these rabbits at the end of the experiment is unknown.
2. An experiment to investigate whether the ankle joint in rabbits is damaged by the lengthening of the tibia.
A group of young rabbits had their hind leg bone (tibia) broken and stretched by 30% over a period of time to see if this affected the ankle joint. They were anaesthetised and a portion of their left the tibia was cut away, creating a fracture. The rabbits also had an apparatus attached to their leg so that the leg could be stretched slowly over a period of weeks after recovery of anaesthesia. The rabbits were all killed.
3. An experiment on rabbits to investigate female sexual arousal disorder in humans.
Under anaesthesia, female rabbits were subjected to substantial mutilation including slicing open their windpipes, opening up their abdomens, cutting away tissue in their genital areas and inserting tubes into blood vessels. An experimental drug was then given to see what the response was. There was no mention of what happened to the rabbits after this gruesome mutilation.
BUAV’s Chief Executive, Michelle Thew says: “Rabbits are naturally social and inquisitive animals yet thousands are subjected to pain and suffering in UK laboratories every year. As World Day for Animals in Laboratories approaches we ask that people stop and consider the plight of the many millions of other animals who suffer and die in research around the world. Please support the BUAV to end this cruelty.”
*Latest figures from UK Home Office 2009