HOME OFFICE UNDER RENEWED FIRE IN ANIMAL RIGHTS
Extract from The
Guardian, 11 July 2003, by Polly Curtis
MPS ARE DEMANDING TO KNOW how the Home Office allowed experiments
involving the transplant of genetically modified piglets' hearts
into the necks of wild baboons to be classed as "moderate".
The transplants by the company Imutran at the Huntingdon Life Sciences
laboratories in Cambridge all occurred before 2000. But the facts
of the experiments only became public after a legal battle between
the company and campaigning group Uncaged Animals, to whom the documents
had been leaked.
The documents were published in April and first reported in the
Observer. They revealed how a quarter of the dozens of baboons involved
died from "technical failures", others were left with
transplant wounds weeping fluid for hours on end and several died
on the journey to Britain.
The Imutran documents, quoted in the Observer, said: "The
Home Office will attempt to get the kidney transplants classified
as "moderate", ensuring that it is easier for Imutran
to receive a licence and ignoring the "severe" nature
of these programmes."
Last week the Common's home affairs select committee wrote to the
Home Office demanding to know how it implemented the Animals (Scientific
Procedures) Act 1986 in relation to the Imutran case.
A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed this and said that, depending
on the response from the committee which will be published in October,
it may chose to conduct a full inquiry.
Although the committee is not publishing its letter to the Home
Office, the spokeswoman confirmed that it was raising a lot of the
issues raised in a memo from Uncaged Campaigns.
Dan Lyons of Uncaged Campaigns told EducationGuardian.co.uk: "There's
the issue of the severity bandings, we want to find out how the
Home Office can justify classifying severe procedures which can
lead to death as 'moderate'.
"The central aspect of the complaint goes to the heart of
the legislation. The Home Office is meant to implement a cost-benefit
system. Imutran constantly claimed that pig-to-human heart transplants
were around the corner - that every experiment was the last before
they go into clinical trials.
"But over the five years Imutran failed to overcome the next
step, which is overcoming acute vascular rejection. The experiment
didn't bring the clinical benefits they claimed. Why didn't the
Home Office step in and say the results of these experiments aren't
bringing the benefits to justify the severity?"
Animal experiments under the 1986 Act must be rated as unclassified,
mild, moderate or substantial. Experiments classified as moderate
must not risk death and post-operation pain must be controlled through
drugs. Substantial experiments pose risks of severe pain and death.
A spokewoman for the Home Office said: "The Home Office will
be preparing a response to the HASC and will respond to the committee
in due course."
She added: "The government accepts that the progress of scientific
research and the development of new drugs and medical technologies
depend on the use of the animals. However, there is a balance to
be struck and we are working to ensure that animals are used only
where fully justified."