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ARCHIVE : Issue 14


Snout 14.2 Is SAAV being sidelined?

IS SAAV BEING SIDELINED BY VESTED INTERESTS?

In 1998, in response to calls over a number of years by various animal protection agencies that had been voicing concerns about animal welfare and legislation issues, the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (DALA) finally convened a meeting of stakeholders. Originally, this invitation was only extended to the NSPCA and the industry itself. Eventually, through the intervention of Senator Errol Moorcroft, at that time the Democratic Party spokesperson for agricultural affairs, the Minister extended the invitation to SAAV and other specialist interest groups as enumerated by SAAV, thus ensuring that a wide range of specialist interest groups were eventually invited.
At the resultant workshop held at the Pretoria Zoo on 12th May, at which vested interests greatly outnumbered the animal protection organisations, SAAV handed out copies of their pro-active submission to government: A call for Transparency and Accountability in the Vivisection Industry, 1998.
Copies of this document were handed out to various organisations, inter alia the NSPCA, the Department of Agriculture (who was responsible for laws for the Protection of Animals) and the South African Association of Laboratory Animal Sciences (SAALAS). SAAV was, to our knowledge, the first organisation to put a concrete proposal on the table.
The Minister promised that sub-committees would soon be formed to work on various aspects of the proposed new animal protection laws and all role players would be consulted. SAAV, as an organisation specialising in the issue of experimental animals, was definitely to be one of the role players. This was confirmed by Dr.Cam Patterson from the Ministry, at that time tasked with getting the ball rolling. So the Ministry was well aware of the existence of SAAV
It later came to SAAV's knowledge that a new initiative for a proposed code was under way, driven by the NSPCA, and that the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) now called STANSA, had been tasked with the coordination.
Despite the fact that the Department of Agriculture had a list of animal-based organisations and their contact details as a result of the Workshop it had arranged in 1998, it tried to wriggle out of its lack of consultation with SAAV and other interested and affected parties by arguing that the trouble was that they and other departments did not have a data base containing the names of all the animal organisations and details of their areas of special interest and had relied on the NSPCA to provide these.
The Department also could not totally assure SAAV that after the drafting of the code and before the code became regulated, there would be a public participation process.
The problem is that, once the code has been drafted, it will be that much more difficult to change what is inherently a very flawed document and which will afford more protection to vested interests than to laboratory animals. .
SAAV has been in constant touch with STANSA (our first communication to them was in 2001). The list of names of other role players who should have been involved, such as Beauty Without Cruelty, was faxed through to STANSA. Although the list was sent through on more than one occasion, STANSA claimed not to have received it.
It subsequently came to SAAV's attention that meetings to draw up a code were being held by a committee consisting of the NSPCA, STANSA and SAALAS as the main role players. SAAV asked to attend the next meeting of the steering committee. 'Oh no,' they were hastily informed - it had been decided that there would be no more face-to-face communications, but that 'meetings' would hence forth only be held via e-mail.
SAAV requested copies of the previous 'meetings' and were informed (you guessed it!) that there were indeed no minutes!
Now a new 'proposed code' has been drawn up based on the Australian one which has already been rejected as seriously flawed by animal organisations in that country and is now being revised by the Australian government.
Meanwhile, SAAV still awaits acknowledgement of their pro-active proposal tabled in 1998, to which they never had a response, as well as acknowledgement of various letters in this respect (the last letter being sent in June 2003) addressed to the Department of Agriculture and to Louis Coetzee of STANSA.
Lack of consultation and transparency continues to characterize the issue of animal experimentation in South Africa.

 

************

DOES ANIMAL RESEARCH CONTRIBUTE TO HUMAN MEDICINE?

An Education and Debate discussion paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) 'If it doesn't work, stop it?' (http://www.bmj.com) identifies a lack of systematic evidence to support the use of animal research. In their paper 'Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? Authors Dr. Pound and Professors Ebrahim, Sandercock, Bracken and Roberts call for a complete evaluation of animal research to determine its value in the development of human treatments.
The paper concludes by calling for an international research programme, on the scale of the Cochrane Collaboration, to discover whether existing animal data can be generalized to human medicine. The authors advise a moratorium on all further animal research until such a programme has been completed. Professor Ian Roberts, Clinical Co-ordinator of the MRC Trial and corresponding author of the paper said "New research, whether in animals or humans, should only be carried out after a proper systematic review of the existing research." He went on to say, "We are asking only that the same standards that are applied in human research are applied to animal research. We would not tolerate haphazard, biased reviews of human research so why should we tolerate this for animal research?"

Animal research is permissible in our society providing it is of benefit to humans but this paper demonstrates that there is currently insufficient systematic evidence to uphold the concept that animal research generalizes to clinical medicine. "Comparing results from systematic reviews of animal and human research will allow scientists and more importantly the public to assess the contribution of animal research to improving human health." explained Professor Roberts. "There is every reason why the public should be sceptical about scientists' claims that animal research benefits human health", he added.

The paper reveals that numerous biases, variables and subtleties in animal research serve to confound the translational process (extrapolating animal data to humans). The authors discovered that methods used in human research to assess for quality, such as systematic reviews, are not used consistently in animal research. It was also found that the methods used in the animal studies that the paper looked at, were methodologically weak. The only justification for animal research is to inform clinical research in the 'pre-clinical' phase but cases were found where animal studies were performed simultaneously with, or even after the human trials. They found that human studies went ahead regardless, even though the animal data had shown the experiments to be either harmful or ineffective in the animals, meaning that the researchers either ignored the animal data or decided it was unreliable. Some clinical trials progressed even though the methodological soundness of the animal studies was flawed. These irregularities suggest that the decisions to proceed with human trials were unethical, defective and a waste of research funding.

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SNOUT 14.4. Baboon Buddies


UPDATE ON THE SAAV 'BABOON BUDDIES'
as told by Rita Miljo,
Founder and Director of CARE

It is now almost seven years since SAAV made history when, for the first time in South Africa, laboratory animals were released into their care, after languishing for most of their lives in a government run research laboratory, the National Centre for Occupational Health.
Gerald, Toby, Nathan, Dibbs, Winston, Guinny, Sybil and Rhona, were the sole survivors of nearly 900 wild-caught baboons that were killed in the name of 'science.' Unfortunately, Toby never made it to C.A.R.E. He died on the operating table before he could see trees, friends and sunshine again. Gerald lived a week and died of a heart attack. However, he still had the pleasure of it all - he went out happy with a big wahoo, sitting in a Marula tree, probably thinking he was already in baboon heaven before he died. The remaining six put up a brave fight to recover and live.
I clearly remember the day they arrived at C.A.R.E. None of us was ashamed of the tears we shed when we saw the wonder in their eyes when they could hug a tree, touch each other, put a hand into the dam and rediscover the world they must have forgotten long ago. The males were the hardest hit - their legs did not function since they had hardly been able to move in the 1m x 1m x 1mm lab cages in which they had been confined for ten years. They could hardly walk. We knew that they would not make it back into the wild any more, but we could give them some happiness and all they needed in a sanctuary situation and so I was prepared to try. After all, society owed them. And our efforts paid off.
It took the males almost six months to regain the use of their legs. Today, seven years later, they are jumping and running around like the rest of our baboons. Sybil, who arrived looking like a walking skeleton, without any hair on her body and very traumatised, is now a plump old lady, self assured and bossy.
Guinney surpassed them all - she actually managed to get herself pregnant. We certainly did not encourage or want this to happen, however, where there is a will there is a way and I can only imagine she enticed Winston to try to become a father through the fence that separated them. In spite of his weak legs he managed and there was no prouder pair of parents than these two. Little Gerald, as we called him in memory of the grand old man who died so soon, is now a promising juvenile and as soon as the drought breaks in our area we will give him the chance of joining the wild troop which visits us daily. Winston and Guinney have a special relationship since the birth of their son and are constantly together. In fact, Winston is quite jealous and possessive of her.
We lost Dibbs two years ago after a long struggle to keep him going, so there are now five survivors of the original group.
Our initial sanctuary consisted of separate large enclosures for each of them which were build in doughnut form, leaving a very large area in the middle which we planned to use as a community enclosure for all of them. With the help of many friends we managed to finish this middle part and started the process of integrating our five into that section. It is a very large area with a beautiful, thatched observation platform which enables them to look far over the Olifants river into the Lowveld, spreading out towards the Kruger Park.
Winston had a very hard time about half a year ago when his whole body wanted to shut down. We did not hold out much hope for him but our local wildlife vet managed to pull him through. He is very much better now, getting fat and cheeky again and is very much in command.
This last scare woke us up to the fact that these survivors are ageing and we now have stricter dietary rules than ever. At the suggestion of Michele Pickover, they are all fed Moducare plus daily vitamins, which we mix into an egg. Baboons are extremely fond of eggs and our old keeper Bennett is greeted enthusiastically mornings and evenings when he arrives with his tray of eggs and goodies.
There is never a dull moment in their present lives. Wwe are visited daily by a troop of wild baboons who make it their business to try and steal food from the enclosures, flirt with the girls and upset Nathan and Winston by wahooing and telling the world that they are the greatest. Because of the current drought, there is hardly any food left for the wild animals. However, the Knob thorn acacias are in full bloom at the moment and the browsers and primates have something to eat. Our five old age pensioners really like the bush food and luckily there are a lot of knob thorn trees around their enclosure to keep them busy for hours, trying to get the sweet flowers off the thinnest branches.
Although they must be about 25 years old by now, we hope that we will be able keep them happy and alive for a long time to come.

***********

SNOUT 14.5 When science and common sense clash …

WHEN SCIENCE AND COMMON SENSE CLASH

In a vastly over populated world, and in a country where the rape of women and children would appear to have become a national sport, Sapa reports that scientists at the University of Pretoria are conducting tests on indigenous plants reputed by traditional healers to have the same 'uplifting' properties as the male impotence drug, Viagra. The roots of the Violet Tree in the traditional Venda area of Limpopo are chewed by men in order to achieve an erection.
Prof Marion Meyer, head of the institution's botany department , said the active ingredients have been tested on human smooth muscle samples obtained from hospitals. They proved to have the desired effect of relaxing the muscle to allow blood to flow into it.
Natural products are generally less harmful to people. Traditonal healers have been using this remedy for centuries, with good results. Nevertheless, the university intends seeking permission from the Medical Research Council and other ethical committees to test the remedy on animals, before proceeding to human trials.
The university itself would not be able to cover the costs for clinical trials and would have to search for funding, Meyer said. Of course.


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ANOTHER SHOCKING UNDERCOVER EXPOSé OF LAB CRUELTY

In the wake of the exposé of cruelties perpetuated against lab animals at the Huntingdon Life Sciences Laboratory in England, the world's leading anti-vivisection campaigning organisation, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) conducted the first ever undercover investigation in a German animal laboratory. The five-month undercover investigation revealed the horrifying truth behind the closed doors of Covance, one of the world's largest contract testing companies and one of the largest users of primates for vivisection in the whole of Europe.
The investigation revealed the daily suffering of monkeys (including heavily pregnant females) subjected to the abhorrent routine of pharmaceutical toxicity testing. The animals, who were tormented by certain staff, were separated from each other, isolated in bleak cages, regularly and forcibly pumped full of drugs and eventually killed.
As well as enduring appalling conditions and a routine of distressing procedures, the monkeys also suffered physically- and verbally aggressive staff behaviour. Caught on the BUAV undercover camera, staff can be seen entertaining themselves by forcing monkeys to 'dance' to disco music on the radio, even during testing procedures, whilst another member of staff is seen trying to insert a tube down the throat for oral dosing.
When the BUAV's astonishing footage was launched on German television, the authorities immediately began an investigation into the possibility that Covance was breaching German Animal Welfare legislation and started proceedings to withdraw its license to experiment on animals. The BUAV also believed that the conditions at Covance breached European law.
The German authorities ordered Covance to install video surveillance in all its animal rooms in Munster, to monitor the behaviour of its animal technicians in the future. However, seemingly reluctant to reveal any more of what goes on behind its closed doors, Covance has started legal action to try and reverse this
decision. Covance has also tried to silence German journalist Friedrich Mülln who was employed by the BUAV to work undercover at Covance to expose the animal
suffering there. Covance obtained an injunction against Mr Mülln at a secret hearing in an attempt to stop him distributing the shocking BUAV undercover footage. The BUAV (which itself is not subject to an injunction) has pledged to help Mr Mülln overturn the injunction. Says their campaign director Wendy Higgins: "People have a right to know the truth about animal experiments and the fact that Covance has chosen to injunct, just demonstrates how much they have to hide."
See inside Covance at www.buav.org/covance


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Coalition for Humane Choices in Women’s Healthcare
Calls On Doctors to Stop Prescribing Premarin Products
Hormone Replacement Therapy Harmful to Women and to Horses


Sacramento, California.– A coalition of animal welfare-, physicians- and women’s groups has called upon doctors of obstetrics and gynaecology urging them to stop prescribing Premarin and related products such as Prempro, for the benefit of their female patients and for the benefit of the tens of thousands of horses cruelly abused each year to produce these drugs.
A study involving 16,000 women found that hormone replacement therapy had no positive benefits for mood swings, sleep problems, fatigue and other symptoms associated with menopause. Another Women’s Health Initiative study involving Prempro was halted early last year after researchers discovered substantial health risks, including danger of heart attacks, blood clots and breast cancer, to the 16,000 women involved.
The coalition asks doctors to consider that Prempro and related HRT drugs manufactured by Wyeth are not only harmful to women’s health but also to the welfare of horses. These drugs are manufactured with oestrogen derived from the urine of pregnant mares, and the production process involves the long-term confinement in a cruel manner of approximately 35,000 pregnant mares as well as the annual slaughter of tens of thousands of their baby foals.
"Polls have shown that women don’t want to take Prempro and Premarin once they know how it is produced," said Pam Runquist of United Animal Nations, a national animal advocacy group which helped organise the coalition. "The problem is that doctors have been hiding this fact from their patients for years due to long-term connections and pressure from Wyeth. With all of this negative health news coming out now about hormone replacement therapy and women’s health, the full truth about this bitter pill can no longer be hidden. This industry has caused enough harm to women’s health and to the welfare of millions of horses over the past six decades of Premarin production."

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Snout 14.8 And you're still using Loreal?

AND YOU'RE STILL USING L'OREAL PRODUCTS?

The European Parliament this year agreed, after 13 years' negotiations with
animal Campaigners, finally to secure legislation to outlaw the suffering of lab animals
in order to produce trivial products like lipstick and perfume. This measure would
phase in a near-total ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetic products throughout the
European Union (EU) from 2009 and put a stop to all animal testing. It has been hailed
as one of the most significant pieces of EU legislation on animal welfare.
However France, home to the world's largest cosmetics company L'Oreal, has
quietly launched a legal action aimed at killing off this historic ban on animal-tested
Cosmetics, The Guardian newspaper has learned. France argues that the ban is too severe,
that it is incompatible with world trade rules and that it will damage European business
interests. The French cosmetics industry is one of the few in Europe still to have an animal
testing programme and companies such as L'Oreal contribute millions of euros to the French
economy.
The ban, it has since emerged, is also under attack from another front. A newly
formed coalition of European companies which manufacture cosmetics ingredients has
launched a separate but equally discreet challenge - this time in Europe's court of first
instance - that is also designed to kill off the EU ban.
Says Wendy Higgins, BUAV's Campaigns Director, "This proves once and for all
that the beauty business is more concerned with turning a profit than with turning their back
on unethical and cruel practices."
Campaigners said they were confident the European courts would throw out both
legal challenges. ``These cases will show whether European law can put animal welfare and
the concerns of EU citizens above profit and vanity,'' said David Thomas, BUAV's
adviser.
The testing of cosmetics and their ingredients has been outlawed in the UK since 1998
but the sale of products tested elsewhere has not and is prevalent. Around 38 000 animals are used
and killed in developing cosmetics in the EU every year, according to The Guardian.


*********

HI GUYS, PROF. SWAN IS NOT A BAD SORT OF FELLOW !

In Snout 13, under 'Cruel Pet Food Testing', we asked readers to 'phone, fax or e-mail Prof. Swan and ask that the humane method of collection of urine and pet food testing be reinstated. The reason why we requested readers to contact Prof. Swan was because he was obviously a senior member of Onderstepoort. At no stage did we intimate that he himself did experiments on animals.
Unfortunately, unknown individuals sent him really abusive e-mails, which was never our intention and a practice we have never condoned. Indeed, our own e-mail to Prof. Swan was most respectful. We had no axe to grind with him.
SAAV has on more than one occasion written to Onderstepoort, asking them to give an indication of who were the members of their animal ethics committee. These reasonable requests were never even acknowledged.
SAAV felt that as Onderstepoort was a public institution, funded by the taxpayer, we had a right know that there was indeed a proper ethics committee looking after the welfare of animals. It was in view of this stony silence that SAAV had to select the name of one of the senior members whom, we thought , would take a reasonable stance in the matter.

******

Snout 14.10

THE SCIENCE CAFÉ

There was a buzz of excitement in the Science Café, established at Roodeplaat in the Interests of Better Science.
"So there you have it, South Africa is to host the World Soccer cup finals in 2010," chirped the Little Bird who had just flown in, "and what excitement there is. It will create much needed jobs!"
"Oh yes," gushed the Canary. "they have now even established a Recreate, Repeat and Replicate (3 R's) fund as part of job creation . Just imagine, jobs for experimenters, jobs for inspectors, all part of the government's reconstruction and development plan. Very resourceful. They call it reinventing the wheel."
"Yes," continued the Little Bird, "and they have also established a Society for Preservation of Cabotage and Arrogance."
"Cabo what?" enquired the Erudite Owl.
"Cabotage," blushed the sparrow, hiding the dictionary under her wing, "that's the reservation of all ground, surface and air traffic within a country. And they will be able to make up their own rules."
"That's the spirit, think big, I always say," replied Vulture No. 1.
"Quite," continued the Little Bird, "and nobody will be able to move without transgressing on their territory. Nobody will be able to bring any charges against them, unmask them, or in fact even mention their name. They've declared themselves infallible. It's all in the interests of job creation, you see. And people will only be able to play soccer according to their rules."
"Well," hesitated the Sparrow, "it's not cricket is it?"




******

EDITORIAL

On World Day for Laboratory Animals (24th April), there was a call on business organisations and the general public to contribute to a fund in order to promote and support 'alternative' testing methods that do not involve the use of animals. This process has been dubbed the "3 Rs".
The concept of the 3 Rs (reduction, refinement and replacement) is not a new one. It has been around for decades and appears to be the brainchild of researchers.
It is, however, opposed by organisations consisting of thousands of medical doctors. They argue that such a search for "alternatives" accords legitimacy to a process which is fundamentally flawed as it is based on a false premise, that the non human animal can serve as a model for the human. So, in a collaborative article In Search of an HIV Vaccine published in Science in Africa April 2002, researchers from the University of Cape Town, the University of North Carolina and The Medical Research Council in S.A, admit that "The lack of an ideal experimental animal model of HIV infection has hampered progress."
The same pitfall has resulted in "cancer research" suffering tremendous setbacks. One of Britain's leading cancer research institutes, the Marie Curie Foundation, announced at the end of 1986 that it would henceforth renounce all animal experimentation. This decision was explained by the realization that experiments on animals provided no meaningful results for human beings. Recently a discussion document published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) "If it doesn't work, stop it?" identifies a lack of systematic evidence to support the use of animal research. In their paper "Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?" authors Dr. Pound and Professors Ebrahim, Sandercock, Bracken and Roberts call for a complete evaluation of animal research to determine its value in the development of human treatments.
The way to go would be abolition and the use of computer models based on the human system, as well as research using human tissue- and cell cultures. Clinical observation, epidemiology and prevention are also valuable tools. But then, there is no money to be made from prevention.
Establishing another 3 R's fund would only serve to keep animal experimentation going by channelling public funds into a search for "alternatives," which ultimately cannot work..

*****

Snout 14.1- A case of déjà vu

A CASE OF DéJà VU ?

In the 1980's a voluntary National Code for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals was drawn up by the NSPCA and the South African Association of Laboratory Animal Sciences (SAALAS) who appeared to be the major role players.. The main contributors to this very flawed document included some leading members of the Roodeplaat Research Laboratory (RRL) which served as a front for the South African Defence Force's biological and chemical warfare (BCW) programme. These veterinary surgeons, it later appeared, were conducting cruel warfare experiments on animals, while publicly pronouncing that they were engaged in important medical research. Most of them clearly had links with Onderstepoort, that august institution which was responsible for the training of South Africa's future veterinarians. One of them, Prof. Willem de Klerk, recently had cruelty charges laid against him i.r.o. the Medunsa Research lab which was under his control. (See Snout No. 13). Some of the learned professors also served on the South African Veterinary Council, watchdog of veterinarians' ethics.
In a Pretoria News article dated 25th September 1986, one of the founders of the RRL, veterinarian Daan Goosen, at that time also the president of SAALAS, stated that 'the voluntary code was soon to become law'. This assurance was repeated from time to time. Eighteen years later, this voluntary code has not yet become law and a new code is being drawn up in a manner that SAAV believes is not totally consultative and transparent.
In all fairness to SAALAS the current president, Dr. Freek Potgieter, is a new role player and seems to be genuinely concerned about experimental animals and transparency. He engenders respect. But the current vice-president of SAALAS, Dr. Daan Goosen, caused a stir in local newspapers just over a year ago when he allegedly offered to sell his knowledge of BCW experiments to overseas concerns. Unfortunately, perceptions tend to stick.
Considering its source, it is hardly surprising that the original 'voluntary code' was soon found to have major loopholes, as already pointed out by SAAV in the late 1980's. Now, 20 years later, there is a move afoot to draw up a new Code for the Handling and Care of Laboratory animals. As the major role players are by and large the same, is it a wonder that once again the proposed Code is seriously flawed?
(See: Is SAAV being side-lined?)




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