Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
MAASTRICHT. Some 127,000 online signatures to prevent experiments on Labradors, threatening e-mails to Maastricht University staff members, demonstrations in Randwijck and a ‘silent march’ through the city next Saturday, 4 October, on World Animal Day.
The intention to use 39 Labradors as laboratory animals in pacemakers research has caused feelings to run high. This was after activists from the so-called Anti Animal Testing Coalition (Anti Dierproeven Coalitie) brought the plans to the public’s attention at the end of August. Immediately after the first upheaval on social media and in particular after the threats, the Executive Board decided to take a unique step: to temporarily stop the research project - “suspended” was the exact term used. It was also decided to ask external experts to investigate closely the animal testing procedures at the UM. This despite the fact that the UM has its own compulsory legal animal experiments committee (DEC), which assesses all research plans with laboratory animals. Research will not be carried out without a go-ahead from this body. The Executive Board states that the appointment of external experts must not be regarded as a disqualification of its own DEC.
How long the research project will be suspended is unclear. In the meantime, the first batch of eight Labradors have left the laboratory animal centre. The centre is only suitable for a relatively short stay. The animals will be placed in private homes.
The fact that Labradors are used, is partly coincidental. The researchers need large dogs in order to insert human pacemakers. The dog breeder provided this particular race, but it could also have been another.
The ADC received the information about the Labrador tests after a (routine) appeal to the Freedom of Information Act. The ADC is fundamentally against all animal testing but focuses on dogs because they arouse more public indignation.
On average, the UM uses about 40 dogs a year. The majority of animal testing, around 96 per cent, however, is on mice and rats. Most animals are put down after the experiments; on occasion, if the animal has not sustained any permanent damage during testing, it can be placed elsewhere.
The UM maintains its policy on animal testing, despite the suspension of this specific research project – emphasising that it has not been stopped: it is necessary for medical progress, the managers say. The policy also includes the – legally compulsory – attention for replacement, reduction, and refinement, with the aim of subjecting as few animals as possible to experiments and at any rate to minimise any discomfort.