Exposing animal experiments at Scotland’s Universities
Animal experiments carried out inside Scotland’s universities have involved more than 376,000 animals in one year alone – including over 279,500 rodents, as well as animals such as birds, frogs, fish and marmoset monkeys. Animal Justice Project, as part of Uni-Watch, looked at the number of animals used over recent years and can reveal that a number of Scotland’s universities, despite their public support for the ‘3Rs’ approach, have actually increased animal experimentation. For example, the University of Edinburgh (the second largest user of animals in the entire country) increased the number of rodents used between 2004 and 2013 from 107,643 to 175,297, and the number of fish from 490 to 64,755.
Below is a small section of experiments which have taken place inside Scotland’s universities between 2014 and 2016. Some of which were funded by leading medical health charities, such as Arthritis Research UK, British Heart Foundation and the National Health Service (NHS). As well as the Scottish Government.
Mice are the most commonly used animal in laboratories today. Our Uni-Watch investigation revealed they are used in ten out of the eleven Scottish universities we know carry out animal research.
In an experiment funded by the National Health Service (NHS), male mice were injected in their stomachs (a potentially painful and terrifying procedure for mice) with a drug that causes Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)).
For five consecutive days, the animals were injected once a day.
The behaviour of mice was studied to log the effects of the drug, including signs of anxiety. Anxiety was induced in the animals in order to study it.
The drug caused the death of a very significant number of neurons in the mice.
Thirty-two male mice were given an antidepressant (fluoxetine) or a control. They were then exposed to stressors at unexpected times throughout the day or night to induce anxiety. This included researchers filling their cages with wet bedding, cat or rat faeces; filling cages with water; spraying the mice with sucrose; restraining them; and all of the above.
The mice had blood taken and were injected with an amphetamine before being killed by CO2 asphyxiation. This method of killing is known to cause pain and stress for animals in laboratories, as they choke to death.
Forty-eight female mice were were subjected to an intraperitoneal injection. It has been stated that: ‘Although widely used as a means of administering substances, particularly injectable anaesthetics, this is an inherently unreliable technique, since inadvertent injection of some material into the gut, abdominal fat and subcutaneous tissues is a relatively frequent occurrence’. The substance injected into the mice was Trypanosoma brucei brucei GVR-35 – a species of parasitic protozoan which causes sleeping sickness.
Sleeping sickness is a parasitic disease that causes numerous symptoms in its victims: fever, headaches, fatigue, painful muscles and joints and changes in behaviour as a result progressive brain problems.
Half of the animals in the study were given anti-inflammatories. Twenty-four days following infection, mice were given diminazene to reduce inflammation. Seven days later the animals were killed and had blood from their brains removed.
Sixty-four mice at the University of Edinburgh were transplanted with human fetal testis fragments.
Some of the mice were given paracetamol. Some not. Thirty-five per cent of mice died.
Rats are also widely used in science. In Scotland during 2015 Animal Justice Project uncovered rats undergoing decapitation, live dissection, drug administration and kidney disease.
In an experiment involving more than fifty male rats, the animals were anaesthetised and received surgical incisions.
The renal artery and renal vein were separated and the artery was clamped at the aortic region. This caused a reduced blood flow and supply which, in turn, negatively affected the kidney, causing it to change colour. The artery was cut and replaced back in position after two hours of inadequate blood supply.
In a study of male reproductive disorders, pregnant rats were exposed to large quantities of acetaminophen and, in order for research to be carried out on the rats’ young, the mothers-to-be were gassed with CO2 and underwent cervical dislocation. The foetuses were then cut out and decapitated before being placed in a cold bath for investigation.
Rabbits are used less so than rats and mice in UK laboratories, however, remain common ‘subjects’ for researchers.
In a study looking at the post-mortem redistribution of heroin metabolites, ex-breeder rabbits who had already had had their young taken from them for experimentation were anaesthetised and injected with a heroin metabolite.
The animals had blood taken from the veins in their ears before being killed by lethal injection and their bodies cut up for analysis.
The use of non-human primates (nhps) in research is highly controversial, even amongst people who are not against animal research per se. This is generally due to their high intelligence and lack of domestication.
Marmoset monkeys from Porton Down – a notorious government laboratory which Animal Justice Project exposed in our ‘Secret War’ campaign – were used by the University of Stirling in behavioural experiments to investigate the consequences of rearing with, and away from, parents.
Twenty-five marmosets were used in the study. Parent monkeys had their babies forcibly removed from their backs to be placed in incubators and receive supplementary feeding. Several behavioural tests were carried out to determine the impact of rearing conditions on reactions to stimuli.
One test carried out was the ‘cognitive bias test’ in which rewards were given for a platform of the correct height being touched. Punishment was enforced if mistakes were made by the monkeys.
Scotland Universities leaflet