Saturday, May 14, 2011

Animal testing lab in Penang shrouded in secrecy

By SM Mohd Idris

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) part of the coalition group comprising the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) and the Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) KL recalls an animal testing laboratory in Bukit Mertajam which has been in operation for sometime.

When and how did this research laboratory come into existence in our midst is clearly mind-boggling. The coalition group only became aware of its operations when it was mentioned in a media article last year, following public outcry over a proposed animal testing center coming up in Alor Gajah, Malacca.

However till today not much is known about this laboratory in Penang, and the kind of animal research carried out within the four walls of their fenced premises.

It is important to know why the laboratory is allowed to operate despite the non-existent laws concerning the use of animals in laboratories. Both the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and the Animal Act 2006 are inadequate to address and regulate the treatment and use of animals in labs.

The group would definitely like to know the species of animals being used in the toxicology tests, and the countries they are imported from. In the case of primates there has to be greater awareness to their capture from the wild and the adverse impact of supply and demand on primate population. The use of primates who are so genetically similar to humans should not be permitted and the use of these animals should be phased out entirely.

SAM and the coalition groups are opposed to the use of animals in research and believe all procedures that entail animal use should be scrutinised carefully and authorisation for such use should take into grave consideration the harm it will do to the animals and the likely benefit to human health. It would be interesting to note who are the monitoring bodies in overseeing the tests conducted and the frequency of inspection visits to the research laboratory.

Animal research is highly controversial, for both ethical and scientific reasons. The value of it is being increasingly questioned.

This endless and absolutely senseless repetition of animal experiments over a period of years, leads neither to the reduction nor the replacement, but rather to the perpetuation of animal experiments which only bring immense and needless suffering to the unfortunate animals.

The key question asked is not whether something can be done, but should it be done. Why are animals used? How much can they suffer?

SAM and its coalition once again call for an end to animal experimentation due to the extent to which use of animals for research causes pain and suffering, and the capacity of animals to experience and comprehend them.

The writer is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia

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