ANIMAL TESTS PROBE AFTER WE EXPOSE SUFFERING
Extract from the Daily Express, 22 September 2000, by Lucy Johnston
and Jonathan Calvert
THE HOME OFFICE will investigate one of Britain's most high-profile
animal experimentation projects following revelations in yesterday's
It has agreed to look at a cache of secret papers which show the
stark truth behind experiments aimed at adapting pig organs for
Thousands of animals have been used by the Cambridge-based company
Imutran which has been attempting to transplant genetically-modified
pig hearts and kidneys into monkeys.
The Daily Express revealed yesterday the secret papers show horrific
animal suffering despite claims to the contrary. They also suggest
that researchers have exaggerated the success of their work.
The Home Office is to circulate copies of the Daily Express article
to all members of the Animal Procedures Committee, which advises
the Government on the licencing of animal experimentation.
A spokesman said: "We are looking into this at the moment
and liaising with our animal inspectorate."
The experiments are being carried out on Imutran's behalf by Huntingdon
Life Sciences which runs Europe's biggest animal research laboratory
Today the Daily Express can reveal that surgeons in the laboratory
were warned they could be putting human lives at risk by operating
on monkeys which could harbour killer diseases.
The surgeons also worked at nearby hospitals and it was feared
that they may pass on the Simian Herpes B virus which is hard to
detect in monkeys but deadly in humans.
In February last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food wrote to Imutran warning of potential hazards to the human
population from the work on monkeys. The letter, addressed to Imutran's
director of research David White, stated that Herpes B is both contagious
and potentially fatal. It insisted the company should follow strict
safety procedures and noted: "It is necessary to bear in mind
the transplant surgeons may well be working on immunosuppressed
Before writing the letter, MAFF had taken advice from an expert
at Porton Down, the Government's chemical and biological warfare
research establishment. The expert viewed Herpes B as a "major
risk" and recommended a review of safety measures at the laboratory.
The concern was heightened by the recent death of an American lab
worker who contracted the virus after a monkey threw faeces in her
face. The expert also warned that monkeys may still be carriers
even if they test negative. The letter was circulated around senior
managers at Imutran. A note was written on the first page by one
of the employees which said: "It now seems that MAFF also wish
to be painful."
A month later, another internal document expressed dismay that
transplants may have been given to seven monkeys with the Herpes
B virus sometime before the MAFF letter was sent.
Last night Dan Lyons, director of Uncaged Campaigns and author
of the Diaries of Despair report based on the secret documents,
warned: "Herpes B is both very dangerous and transmitted relatively
easily. The surgeons who operated on the infected baboons would
probably have also been performing transplant surgery on patients
with weakened immune systems, further increasing the risk."
Over the last five years Imutran - the world leader in xenotransplantation
research - has claimed to have been close to solving the crucial
issue of "organ rejection" which has so far prevented
trials on humans.
However, the Daily Express found that its scientific papers did
not always give the full picture of the difficulties faced by the
Last night Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat spokesman on animal welfare
said the documents illustrated the need for more openness in vivisection
work. "The Home Office must improve access to information on
such matters," he said. "We need to know where these experiments
are taking place, what is happening and why."