1Animal Rights - HLS Wrongs (Warning-long message)
- Jun 15, 2002Animal Rights - HLS Wrongs
As well as holding back medical progress, getting unsafe drugs onto
the market and therefore killing people Huntingdon Life Sciences have
a long history of abusing the animals in their labs. Below are
several accounts of investigations into HLS employees' misconduct.
Article from Daily Express 21-09-2000
Terrible despair of animals cut up in name of research
LUCY JOHNSTON AND JONATHAN CALVERT
THE SHOCKING truth behind Britain's most high-profile animal
experimentation project is revealed today in confidential documents
seen by the Daily Express. The secret papers show horrific animal
suffering despite claims to the contrary. They also reveal
researchers have exaggerated the success of work aimed at adapting
pig organs for human transplant.
The project, carried out by Cambridge-based Imutran, involves
transplanting genetically modified pigs' hearts and kidneys into
monkeys. Thousands of pigs, monkeys and baboons have been used.
Over the past five years Imutran - the world leader in
xenotransplantation - claims to have been close to solving the
crucial issue of organ rejection which has so far prevented trials on
humans. But the Daily Express found scientific papers declaring new
breakthroughs did not give the full picture. In one published paper
it is claimed no baboons died from "hyperacute" reaction when two
excluded from the published study did.
A second publication describes a baboon which survived for 39 days
with a pig heart - the company's greatest success to date - as
healthy throughout. But records show that it was suffering in the
last days of its life. Its heart had grown in weight by three times,
a significant fact not mentioned in the published article.
Internally, the company admits to being a long way off targets set by
the American Food and Drug Administration for trials on humans. It
wants "substantial" improvements from its scientists in the next 18
The experiments are being carried out at the Huntingdon Life
Science's animal research laboratories in Cambridgeshire.
Imutran says the animals do not suffer. But the laboratory
technicians' own detailed records of the animals post-transplant
lives paint a different picture. One monkey which had a pig heart
attached to the blood vessels in its neck was seen holding the
transplant which was "swollen red" and "seeping yellow fluid" for
most of the last days of its life.
Animals are described as quiet, huddled, shivering, unsteady and in
spasm. Some had swellings, bruising or were seen with blood or puss
seeping from wounds. Others vomited, or suffered from diarrhoea.
Imutran was given a special dispensation by the Home Office to carry
out this work because of potential benefits to humankind. It has a
duty to ensure the animals suffer as little as possible.
BUT documents show that over a quarter of the animals died on the
operating table or within a few days because of "technical failures"
in the surgical procedures. In one experiment, this accounted for 62
per cent of lives. In another, 13 out of 22 monkeys died within two
days of the operation, a fact not mentioned in their published paper.
Imutron maintains all the relevant data was included in the
scientific paper. There have been a number of awful mistakes. One
monkey had to be "sacrificed" when researchers discovered the pig
kidney it was about to be given had been mistakenly frozen. In the
documents, Imutran acknowledges that it has had "severe problems"
with the data. The documents have gone to animal rights group,
Sheffield-based Uncaged Campaigns, which compiled a report - Diaries
of Despair - to present to the Government calling for a halt to
xenotransplantation research and an independent judicial enquiry. The
group's director Dan Lyons said: "The documents show the true extent
of the suffering of these primates. This atrocious suffering must
An Imutran statement yesterday said: "We should like to emphasise
that animal welfare is very important to Imutran. The conduct of our
animal experimentation is closely monitored by the Home Office."
Last night Dr Gill Langley, a member of the Government's Animal
Procedures Committee, expressed concern. "These documents reveal the
PR image and the reality of xenotransplantation research. It seems
even the scientific community isn't being given the full facts."
THE baboon began its life in the scrubland and sparse trees of a
Kenyan savannah. Its final days were spent in a cramped, stainless
steel-framed cell, four thousand miles away in Cambridgeshire.
It had become baboon number X201m - one of the thousands of residents
in Europe's biggest animal research laboratory, the Huntingdon
Research Centre, owned by Huntingdon Life Sciences.
The barbed wire exterior of the sprawling complex is patrolled by
security guards who keep a wary eye on groups of activists who gather
outside to protest against vivisection.
None of this could be seen from the baboon's new home - the top
secret Room 099 - where the light is regulated by the flick of a
switch every 12 hours and the air changed every four minutes by
The monotony was broken on the morning of March 23, 1998, with a
flurry of activity. Baboon X201m was carried to the operating table,
where it took five hours to cut away its healthy heart and replace it
with the heart of a pig.
It is called xenotransplantation - a highly controversial experiment
which some believe will one day be the solution to the shortage of
organs for human transplants.
Baboon X201m clung to life for 39 days after the operation, which
makes him the world's longest survivor with a pig's heart.
His owners, Imutran, the Cambridge company which financed the
experiment, hailed it as a huge success and devoted a scientific
paper to him. But all was not quite as it seemed.
Until now, the full details of Imutran's experiments on live primates
have been a closely guarded secret. The company carefully filters the
little information that has been released.
It claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough which will make it
possible for a human being to live with a pig's heart or kidney. And
it insists that the animals in its experiments do not suffer.
Today the Daily Express can expose the reality. A volume of
confidential documents - the largest set of data on animal
experiments ever leaked - suggests that the company has not been
frank with the public and the scientific community.
It also shows that many animals have endured days or weeks of
suffering in vain.
The documents have shocked a senior government adviser on animal
experiments and led to calls for the work to be stopped. Even baboon
X201m was not the success he was made out to be. His short life with
a pig's heart was announced to the world in a dry academic paper for
the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.
It suggested that the baboon had led a perfectly normal life
following its operation, stating: "Throughout the first 38 post-
transplant days the baboon was active and energetic, moving freely
about his enclosure."
But that is not the picture revealed in detailed scientific records
of the baboon's last days, seen by the Daily Express.
Two weeks after his operation experts noted he was: "Quiet and
huddled, reluctant to move, some abdominal breathing seen, slightly
His condition rallied but in the last 10 days of his life he was
often only "occasionally active". None of this is recorded in the
company's published data. Neither is the fact that his pig heart had
astonishingly grown to three times its weight by the time he was
Indeed the five other animals in the experiment lasted, on average,
just 10 days - which again is not mentioned in the paper.
YESTERDAY, the company defended its description of the monkey in the
paper. "We have video recordings made late in the animal's post-
operative course at 25 days and 35. This footage shows an active and
energetic animal, climbing in its enclosure." Over the past five
years Imutran has used the services of Huntingdon Life Sciences to
perform more than 400 transplants on primates.
The experiments are aimed at overcoming the problems of rejection
caused by the body's natural immune reaction to foreign organs such
as hearts and kidneys.
Imutran became world leaders in the research when they
developed "transgenic" organs which have been genetically altered to
reduce the chances of rejection.
They have been testing ways of keeping the transplanted animals alive
using a variety of drugs to suppress the immune system.
The rewards for success could be huge. Optimistic City forecasts are
that the industry could be worth £6billion by the year 2010. In
particular, it will open a huge market for the immuno-suppressant
drugs produced by Imutran's parent company, the Swiss drug giant,
Ever since the mid-nineties the company has been declaring boldly
that it is within a year of extending the tests to humans. Yet
documents seen by the Daily Express suggest that it has given a
highly selective account of its achievements.
A paper published in the journal of Transplant Proceedings last year
claimed the company had made a key breakthrough in eradicating the
problem of "hyperacute" rejection - in which the monkey's immune
system reacts instantly against the donated pig heart.
It said that a study of nine baboons who had a pig heart sewn onto
their arteries showed that no "transgenic heart underwent hyperacute
rejection". But secret data shows the experiment was actually carried
out on 22 baboons. The company picked nine out of the ten baboons who
had lived longest, probably because they were on different drug
regimes. Two of those excluded from the published paper died after
suffering a "hyperacute" rejection to the organ.
The reality that emerges is that the company is still a long way off
making xenotransplantation work in humans.
The company's raw data from the two major experiments carried out at
Huntingdon shows that, on average, a baboon survives only seven days
after having its heart replaced by that of a pig.
AND it is clear the longest survivors were kept alive with massive
doses of drugs. They have had more success transplanting kidneys into
monkeys, but new problems have been discovered, such as cancer and
internal bleeding, possibly caused by the drugs.
The crisis came to a head at a recent meeting between Imutran and
senior managers in Novartis. An 18-month deadline was set for the
research to show "substantial" increases in survival rates.
The lack of progress will increase pressure on the company to justify
its experiments. By law, vivisection is only licenced if the benefit
to mankind outweighs the harm to animals.
Until now, little has been known about the treatment of the monkeys
inside Huntingdon LIfe Sciences. Publicly, Imutran insists
they "don't suffer". But its own documents show for the first time
the true horrifying extent of the ordeal endured by the monkeys.
They are transported halfway across the globe in tiny cages. In one
shipment three animals died - probably from suffocation - in a 35-
hour trip from the Philippines. All the animals used for
xenotransplantation experiments at HLS die or are killed. It can be a
long exit - a research goal is to keep the animals alive as long as
possible after transplant.
Clinical conditions are recorded by scientists. Animals are described
as quiet, huddled, shivering, unsteady, in spasm, vomiting and
suffering from diarrhoea. Some have blood or puss seeping from wounds.
A baboon with a pig's heart transplanted onto its neck had swelling
around the transplant and "yellow fluid around wound".
SOME animals are found dead in their cages and others
are "sacrificed" when their condition goes past the point of no
return. Many deaths are wasteful. In one experiment, 33 out of 61
monkeys died within 24 hours of a transplant due to "technical
failures". The company's correspondence shows an average of one in
five animals lost this way.
Imutran says its work is monitored by the Home Office and regards
animal welfare as "very important". There is much evidence of shoddy
work inside the centre. The documents show animals have been wrongly
re-used in experiments, medicines have been left unlabelled and
uncapped, and on hundreds of occasions scientists have failed to take
readings and measurements from animals following operations.
Worse still, there are mistakes which lead to painful deaths. A
monkey perished because a swab had been left inside his wound during
the operation, causing his spleen to go septic. Another had to
be "sacrificed" when researchers discovered the pig kidney it was to
be given had been frozen by mistake.
A female monkey had to be euthanased the day after she was given a
dose of a drug four times higher than recommended.
The records note that she was shaking and grinding her teeth. Imutran
later wrote to the laboratory, saying the mistake was "unacceptable".
The following was taken from SHAC.net
HUNTINGDON LIFE SCIENCES - EXPOSED YET AGAIN
In October 2000, just weeks after the xenotransplantation programme
carried out at Huntingdon Life Sciences, in collaboration with
Imutran, was exposed in the UK national newspaper The Daily Express,
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty received documents, photographs and
video footage relating to Huntingdon Life Sciences's site at Occold
The material received by the campaign gave us shocking evidence of:
a monkey escaping from a HLS lab,
drug taking on site,
high levels of absenteeism,
low staff morale,
information on HLS's customers
safety regulations being flouted.
We also have detailed information regarding HLS's clients, including
Monsanto, Glaxo Wellcome, British Biotech, Neurocrine, AdProTech,
Roche, Lipha, Du Pont, Searle and Servier, and the primate toxicology
experiments they paid Huntingdon Life Sciences to carry out on their
behalf in 1999-2000.
The documents also include the 1999 findings of the Good Laboratory
Practice Monitoring Authority, which lists a staggering 41
deficiencies found at the Occold laboratory.
The most shocking revelation was video footage of an animal
technician, Sarah, laughing as she recounted how a baboon escaped
from Huntingdon Life Sciences's site at Huntingdon and ran across the
A1 dual carriageway.
Person 1:"You can imagine going through a docket hole in the ceiling
and a fucking big baboon "
Sarah: "That happened up at Huntingdon."
Person 1: "You're joking."
Sarah: "No, legged it across the A1."
Person 1: [Inaudible]
Sarah: "I think so. It ended up in the plant room. The engineers went
up there and left the door open and it fucked off across the A1."
Person 1: "Did they catch it?"
Sarah: "Eventually. It wouldn't have survived anyway."
Person 1: "Is that why it's so hot in here?"
Person 2: "How much did it weigh?"
Sarah: "Up to 15 kilos."
This shows HLS employees' cavalier attitude to a very serious
incident. How many other animals have escaped? What diseases was this
baboon carrying? Was this incident reported to the Home Office,
Police and Study Sponsor?
One of the documents received was a Formal Written Warning given to
Selina Williams, an animal technician working in Dog and Primate
Toxicology. When asked why she had not arrived at work or notified
the company, she replied:
"On my way to work I was stopped by the police, and subsequently
charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. I was given a
fine and received points on my licence."
It is almost unbelievable that this worker was disciplined for not
attending work, yet the fact that she was on her way to work drunk is
not considered worthy of disciplinary action.
Included in notes about another technician, James Berry, is the
following: "I am aware that James has received counselling for
alcohol-related problems whilst employed by HLS."
Do HLS consider that a worker with alcohol problems is fit to work
with animals and carry out experimental procedures such as dosing
On the video footage we received, animal technician Sarah laughs as
she recounts how two workers were in trouble for staying in the pub
for two hours over lunchtime.
This is a serious concern. How can someone who has been drinking to
this extent possibly be in a fit state to carry out experimental
procedures or ensure that animals are properly looked after?
Huntingdon Life Sciences's own Staff Handbook states that certain
offences are sufficiently serious to warrant instant dismissal
without prior warning. One of these offences is: "Being under the
influence of intoxicating liquor on Company premises."
Why were the above workers not sacked immediately?
Of particular concern is the following taken from notes regarding
animal technician James Berry: "Team Leader informed me that James
had offered Speed to Selina Williams and Jess Ashwell having already
taken some himself. Both have agreed to supply written statements
In the Staff Handbook it states that "possession, consumption or
being under the influence of drugs on company premises" warrants
instant dismissal. Why was this worker not dismissed immediately? Why
didn't HLS inform the police of the criminal activity taking place on
We received copies of many records of disciplinary action and other
documents regarding staff from the Dog and Primate Toxicology Units
not turning up for work, and also not notifying the company they were
not coming in.
One letter to a Mrs V. Rush from John Holmes states: "Your current
level of sickness is unacceptable. This level of absenteeism does not
assist your working colleagues to achieve their work loads or (sic)
does it assist us to ensure adequate staffing levels are maintained."
It is evident from several different documents that staff morale at
Occold is very low.
One technician when interviewed about why he walked out of work in
the middle of the day without informing anyone, stated that he "had
reached the end of his tether." He said that other members of staff
felt the same, and that he "was merely the first to crack."
A letter from Pete Denholm, Chief Animal Technician, to a Mr S Frost
informing him of a salary rise and promotion to the position of Team
Leader has a hand-written note on it saying: "Welcome to the stress
Another indication of staff problems at Occold is a letter from Jamie
Kilpatrick in the Dog Toxicology Unit to John Holmes, Principal Team
Leader and Animal Facility Manager, stating: "This building can't
afford to have such negativity and bad reports otherwise some
questions will be asked further up the line (surely)?"
Another note signed by Pete Denholm, Chief Animal Technician,
concerns two female technicians and how they leave work early in the
evening and stay on lunch longer than they should. He mentions
their "blatant abuse of our trust."
In a confidential Record of Disciplinary Action dated 7th January
2000, a Mrs Vicky Rush, now in Marmoset Breeding, was given a formal
verbal warning when " one male marmoset suffered an irreversible
fracture to the left Femur while being restrained within the
gangcage. The animal was euthanased on humane grounds."
A formal verbal warning, according to HLS's own handbook, is given
for a minor offence, whilst immediate dismissal is meant to happen
when "any action which deliberately or by negligence results in
injury to an animal."
Why was Vicky Rush not sacked immediately?
Another Formal Written Warning was issued to Sarah Kirkup in Dog and
Primate Toxicology when she gave a monkey in a British Biotech
experiment the vehicle substance instead of the test substance, threw
away the dose the animal should have been given and did not inform
any of her team. She admits "I know I have made a serious mistake."
Chief Technician Pete Denholm's handwritten note states that "the
chain of events commencing in the pharmacy department and then
subsequently in the animals must have a serious impact on our client
confidence as numerous checks put in place were blatantly not
How can HLS's clients have any confidence that experiments are being
properly carried out?
INFORMATION ON CUSTOMERS
We received a considerable amount of confidential information
regarding customers and the primate toxicology experiments they have
paid Huntingdon Life Sciences to carry out on their behalf in 1999-
As you can see from one of the tables from Toxicology Planning at HLS
dated 14th March 2000 and reproduced here, the information is
comprehensive, listing the study number, enquiry number, company,
substance to be tested, quote number, order month, quote value,
price, species, study type and duration, route of administration,
department, start month, site and HLS contact for each experiment.
Some tables list how many monkeys have been assigned to each
experiment, with the company name listed beside the number of
animals, and other tables list the duration of each experiment.
We also have various e-mails, such as the enquiry reproduced here
from David J. Beard at Glaxo, and also internal HLS e-mails regarding
various customers and experiments, as well as several speculative
protocols for toxicity studies for various companies such as Diamyd
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS IGNORED
A hand-written note from Pete Denholm to Carley Smith regards safety
precautions being ignored resulting in a germ off accident, the third
one in one month. He states that all the accidents have resulted in
staff taking time off work. He says "you were not wearing eye
protection in the first 3 gang cages" and that staff "have been
reminded on several occasions to wear safety equipment."
This sort of behaviour shows the `couldn't care less' attitude of HLS
staff. This incident is particularly worrying given that a laboratory
worker died in America from Herpes B after a monkey threw its faeces
in her eye.
BREACHES OF GOOD LABORATORY PRACTICE
It was of great interest to read HLS's overview of the findings of
the 1999 inspection of Occold by the Good Laboratory Practice
Monitoring Authority. There were 41 deficiencies listed following the
One major deficiency listed was that HLS produced multiple versions
of reports for one study, even though only one report per study is
allowed, and also changed details within the report - according to
the GLPMA "the outcome was misleading information."
There were also major deficiencies with multi-site studies with
regard to reporting separate phases and management control, and major
deficiencies regarding Quality Assurance.
Other discrepancies were listed in various areas, including SOPs,
Training issues, Records, Archiving, Quality Assurance, Equipment,
Labelling and Facilities.
One discrepancy of particular concern is "estimating dose volumes in
syringe." HLS's own internal comment is "Yet again! Estimating
between the graduation lines or pulling the plunger past the last
graduation lines is not acceptable." How can HLS possibly assure
customers of the integrity of studies carried out on their behalf
when the dosages are inaccurate?
Other discrepancies include absence of measurement units on forms,
trainee supervision not documented, no indication of competence in
senior staff, late submission of studies, behind schedule with
external and facility inspections, backlog of report audits,
inadequate building maintenance, inadequate clean and dirty
separation, inadequate freezer space for samples and insufficient
The list of discrepancies goes on - suffice to say that yet again
there is evidence of HLS running their business in a sloppy,
disorganised manner. What is of particular concern is that there are
discrepancies covering many different areas of the site, which shows
that there are widespread problems at Occold.
'YOUR SECRETS ARE OUR SECRETS'?
It is apparent from the video footage that we received that the
person filming it was able to wander up and down corridors and in and
out of various labs and animal rooms without being challenged by any
staff. This is also apparent from the photographs taken all round the
Yet again it has been proved that HLS management's claim `Your
secrets are our secrets' is a complete and utter joke. They cannot
possibly assure any clients of customer confidentiality. With two
undercover investigations and two exposés covering all three of their
sites in the UK and the USA in the last three years, who knows what
company's links with HLS will be uncovered next?
In June 1997 Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
released a videotape shot by a Peta member undercover inside HLS's
lab in America.
To say the video is shocking would be a gross understatement. In one
scene you can clearly see a monkey being cut open during a necropsy
(an animal equivalent of an autopsy) whilst still alive. In another
scene a researcher yells at a frightened monkey: "Calm down before I
bite your face!"
On another tape, technicians yell and scream as a monkey is strapped
down. One says sarcastically: "I'm sure the sponsor will love that."
A second technician comments "bring up their heart rates just a
little bit more." Whilst a third says: "You can wipe your ass on that
In another incident a technician holds a monkey in mid-air as he
administers a tuberculin test material into the animals eyelid. Asked
by the undercover investigator if he can do it this way, the
vivisector replied: "Nope, not supposed to, never saw it, never did
it, can't prove it."
The video tapes are a catalogue of abuse, half the time the so
called "experiments" are not even being done as they should be. Again
what was HLS's response to this exposé? Even after Michelle Rokke
(Peta investigator) had uncovered papers that showed HLS were due to
conduct an experiment for the Japanese company, Yamanouchi in which
37 Beagle puppies would have a leg bone sawn then snapped with a
Alan Staple president of HLS in America stated "We are innocent" and
went on to state that he felt "violated" by Peta's exposé. After all
the animal suffering shown, he felt violated! Incredible! Meanwhile
Christopher Cliffe - the over-all head of HLS - said from Huntingdon
Research Centre, Cambridge that the tapes were "misleading,
scandalous rubbish." He insisted the behaviour of the staff was
nothing more than "tomfoolery."
In 1997 Zoe Broughton worked at HLS
It's a dog's life...
Ever since I was young I used to wonder what went on behind the high
barbed wire of the huge animal-testing laboratory down the road. I'm
not opposed to animal testing if it's done to advance medical
science, and if in the process the animals are kept well and treated
compassionately. I decided to apply for one of the lab's many
vacancies advertised in the local paper, to see for myself.
A few days later I got an interview for a job as an animal
technician. The pay was about £120 for a five-and-a-half-day week. I
made myself sound keen and stressed that I had experience of working
with animals. They checked my name to see if it appeared on any
animal campaign lists, Before I'd come to terms with what I was about
to involve myself in I was working in one of Britain's largest animal
I don't know what to expect, not even which department I will get
sent to or how I will respond to seeing animals in pain. To fit in, I
make up a false past. I can hardly reveal I am a filmmaker. But I am
worried that I may something that might blow my cover. I am assigned
to the dog toxicology unit.
I've always had pet dogs, but as we enter the building the noise and
smell hits me. I cannot stop my face showing the shock. I notice
immediately that the little puppies are keen to play, whereas the
older dogs are wary of human touch. Some stay at the back of their
cages and don't even move when I give them their food.
My job is to look after a room of 32 puppies. On the first afternoon
I am asked to check the health of my dogs. I am shown how to do it,
but trying to check teeth and paws on a wriggling little puppy seems
almost impossible. Later I read the Home Office guidelines and it
states that it has to be done by a competent person how can I be
competent on my first day at work?
All the dogs had their own distinctive characters and I was shocked
to find out that they would al be put down. By the end of the day I
was mentally and physically exhausted.
The hardest job is putting the young puppies away after their one
hour of exercise in the small concrete corridor between the two rows
of cages. They paw at me with their shitty feet; I pick one up, read
the number tattooed in its ear and walk the length of the room to
find its cage; all the while trying not to tread on paws and slip in
the fresh shit. It's repulsive and by the end of the each day my lab
clothes have turned from white to brown
I have to help take blood samples. They call it "doing a bleed". I
bring the first dog out and sit her on a chair beside me, holding
both front paws in one hand and holding the chin up with the other.
The animal technician shaves the dog's neck and then plunges the
needle in. She continues bleeding afterwards
I get blood on my arm and I see the other dogs look and know what was
coming. Some grip the floor cringing and a couple try to dart past me
and escape. Often the technicians can't find a vein. I count one
needle being put in three times and once under the skin prod in
different directions 15 times before finding a vein. I feel pretty
I am told not to use so much sawdust "one shovelful is enough and it
needn't be piled up." There is no bedding and this is all the dogs
have on the concrete floors. The Home Office inspectors turn up. I
don't see them look in any of the units I deal with - they just stand
outside the dog rooms and chat with the technicians.
Another visit from the Home Office inspectors. This time I see them
outside in the corridor a technician tells me to sweep the floor I
sweep it, but they don't enter my side of the laboratory. I've now
seen them arrive twice, but I haven't seen them look at a dog yet.
I still feel physically sick with nerves. The Independent Television
Commission (ITC) has granted me permission to film what is going on.
The camera equipment is strapped to my body. It is very bulky and I
am worried because it is visible every time I bend over.
The worst day yet, as the experiments started on my 32 puppies. The
test involves putting each dog in a sling and injecting a chemical
used in scanning of human livers. Two are sick as they are being
injected, some of their legs swell up and on top of this the puppies
have 10 blood tests each through the day. The technicians keep saying
that "these dogs are too young for this type of experiment as their
veins are too small" - so why have they got them so young? If the
puppies wriggle, they are hit or shaken by the scruff of their necks.
I feel like a torturer. I hold them and soon get their blood on my
I help prepare the doses for another experiment - it is an
agrochemical toxicity test for a Japanese company. A lot of the tests
in my department were testing for the toxicity of herbicides and
fungicides. The man I am working with measures out the compound and I
put it into capsules. He is meant to print out the weight of each
dose on a computer so it can be checked. What he actually does is
measure one dose correctly, print this out seven times and then make
the next six doses for the week far more quickly and with less
accuracy. This means the dogs are not getting the right dose: these
experiments may be invalid.
Walk into my unit and one of my puppies, number 1619, has half a pint
of congealed bloody faeces around his cage. The vet looks at him and
says it is all right to continue with the daily doses
I'm finding it hard to watch these needles being repeatedly put into
the dogs legs, over and over. One technician gets so angry when he
can't find a vein that he shouts and quickly jabs the needle in
repeatedly, often going right through the vein. Twice I have seen him
give up and squirt the rest of the liquid into the bin.
I have had plenty of opportunities to read the files. I have been
writing notes on scraps of paper and have now established which
experiments are in which rooms, who's sponsoring which companies, the
compounds being tested and how each is being administered.
Today I film the pictures of the animal technicians' pets on the
wall - many of them talk non-stop about their lovely pets and then go
back to work.
We have now finished the experiment with my puppies and today we have
to go through the whole blood-testing rigmarole again. I cannot
believe the animal technicians' attitudes - they are messing around
while trying to take blood. One technician pokes, tickles and fools
around with the man he is working with. This makes the process of
finding a vein take even longer.
They've started the post mortems on my dogs. Today I carry my
favourite puppy along the corridor to what are known as the Death Row
cages. I spent last weekend deciding whether to blow this whole
project and smuggle her out - but I must think of the future of the
other animals here and hope that my film will help all of them.
I have just walked out of the laboratory for the last time. I wanted
to say goodbye and pet the dogs, but I've found it so hard loving
those about to be put down that I kept my distance at the end. I
don't think anybody suspects me. I have followed the whole process
with my puppies, from the settling-in weeks, through experiments to
the post-mortem. As I was leaving, they told me my chores for the
next morning - nobody knew I would not be there, but in the edit
suite, assembling the evidence of their cruelty.
In 1981 Sarah Kite (B.U.A.V.) worked undercover in Huntingdon
Research Centre (HRC) for eight months.
The first undercover investigation
In 1981 Sarah Kite (B.U.A.V.) worked undercover in Huntingdon
Research Centre (HRC) for eight months. She started work in the
Rodent Toxicology Unit. She could see at first hand what made these
Sarah wrote: "I soon discovered we were not allowed to call blood,
blood, we had to call it red staining. Similarly, the killing of an
animal at the end of an experiment is described as a sacrifice."
Sarah also wrote of the then Chief Animal Technician, Anthony
Ellis: "Ellis was an unpleasant man who over exaggerated his
affection towards the animals (when showing round potential workers).
One moment he spoke about dying dogs and the next he was showering
them with affection as though he had no responsibility for the fact
that they became ill."
Sarah described two experiments whilst in the Rodent Toxicology Unit.
One was for the food colouring Canthaxanthin, which was used in
colouring the flesh of salmon and trout and also used in sun tanning
pills. This experiment was carried out for the pharmaceutical company
Hoffman La Roche.
"Effects included lethargy, hair standing on end, swollen necks and
abdomens. Those given high doses had orange fur and tails, with brick
red faeces and urine." The substance was considered so harmful that
the staff cleaning out the animal's pens had to wear oxygen suits.
Canthaxanthin was banned at the beginning of December 1988 by the
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) yet HRC were still
happily poisoning animals with it six months later.
She described another experiment for the tranquilliser Fiucto
Trazepam which was a two year chronic toxicity study. Clinical
reports recorded: "rats having fits after dosing for up to one
minute" and "cages 85, 95 and 100 had large amounts of dark red blood
on their trays." The animal's condition was recorded as "gross and
ill with greasy wet fur standing on end." One technician described
the animals in this room as: "rotting but still alive."
After six months undercover Sarah Kite was transferred to the Dog
Toxicology Unit. The work she endured in this unit was so harrowing
that she could only stand it for 8 weeks. In that time she saw
beagles poisoned with pesticides, dental hygiene products, drugs and
food wrapping film.
In one test, 48 Beagles had their backs shaved then an anti-psoriatic
cream applied everyday for 30 days. This resulted in open sores and
blisters on the dogs backs. The dogs had their bodies bound in tight
sticky plaster and they had to wear large head collars to stop them
pulling at the plasters as they were in pain. The beagle was just
about to have more cream rubbed into the sores. There is already a
whole raft of anti-psoriatic creams on the market.
This was no new cure but simply another drug company looking to cash
in on a lucrative market. In fact an HLS report from 1972 admitted
that "there is a great variation in the skin irritancy response of
mice, guinea pigs, piglets, dogs and baboons." More pointless animal
research for profit.
Sarah told how "Staff were encouraged not to spend time with the
Beagles because it lost time. Time and speed were the essence I was
told." Also "Staff were told not to touch the animals because it
was "a waste of time." It was said the animals became "spoilt" and
did not do what they were told."
Sarah went on to tell "Whilst cleaning out the cages, I regularly
found blood, vomit and diarrhoea on the floor. Many dogs were very
ill. They were extremely thin with their fur standing on end. They
were visibly shaking and often so scared they were unable to leave
Sarah could take no more and left, but not before she had gathered
enough evidence that would rock HLS to their foundations as well as
gathering a lot of newspaper coverage.
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