Animal Aid

Cardiff University Picketed over GM Mouse Experiments: 'Agonisingly Cruel and Without Medical Benefit'

Posted 28 February 2013
  • Animal Aid brands Cardiff University cancer research programme as ‘agonisingly cruel and medically useless’
  • Genetically modified mice riddled with tumours, suffer internal bleeding and fatal bladder blockages
  • 44,000 mice killed experimented on in just one year
  • Evidence shows that ‘reprogrammed’ rodents fail as models for human cancer
  • For every GM mouse used in an experiment, hundreds more die or are killed

A Reality TV roadshow is coming to Cardiff on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd March to expose a decade-long series of experiments on genetically modified mice conducted at Cardiff University.

Centerpiece of the two-day Animal Aid visit is a converted ambulance emblazoned with stark protest imagery and messages. A three-minute film, which includes footage of a variety of GM mouse experiments, will be screened continuously from the side of the vehicle. The ambulance will be stopping at numerous locations around the city and the university, reaching as many residents and students as possible. The protest marks the start of a determined campaign with a simple objective – to bring an end to the experiments.

Part-funded by Cancer Research UK, the Cardiff experiments have involved genetically altering mice so that they developed tumours of the intestines, bladder, prostate and kidney. Various established and novel drugs were then given to the animals to test their effects. The GM mice went on to suffer numerous painful and often severely debilitating tumours. In colon cancer experiments, each mouse endured an average of 46 growths. Among the symptoms suffered by the ‘disease models’ were rectal bleeding, anaemia, weight loss and terminal bladder blockages.

On several occasions, the researchers reported findings that contradicted previous similar animal experiments. They speculated that this could be attributed to the use of different strains of mice, or mice kept in different laboratory conditions. Animal Aid’s scientific Briefing on the Cardiff programme notes that if results are confused by such slight variables then ‘the absurdity of their extrapolation to humans is glaringly obvious’.

A recent review published in a leading scientific journal puts a significant share of blame on the use of GM mouse models for the fact that cancer drugs have a higher failure rate in large-scale human trials than does any other category of pharmaceutical1.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that thousands of animals have been bred for the Bristol programme, though most are destroyed as ‘surplus’ or as ‘failures’.

Internal University of Cardiff documents show that, in 2011, nearly 44,000 mice were subjected to ‘procedures’ in its laboratories. A high proportion of these animals were genetically modified by the university’s own research teams. It is well established that the creation and breeding of new GM mice lines involves a huge amount of unpublicised killing of ‘failed’ and ‘surplus’ progeny. It is certain, therefore, that the official toll of 44,000 mouse victims falls significantly short of the true figure.

There are numerous productive non-animal methods of conducting cancer research. They include the use of microfluidics, computer modelling, high-resolution scanning, and the use of biopsy material and healthy human tissue2.

The Cardiff protest comes in the wake of the publication earlier this month of a landmark new Animal Aid report called Science Corrupted: the nightmare world of GM mice. Drawn from mouse researchers’ own papers published in scientific journals, the report concludes that the UK-wide research programme to tackle major human diseases by breeding and experimenting on genetically modified mice has become ‘frenzied, scientifically irrational and terrifyingly cruel’.

Says Animal Aid’s Scientific Consultant, Dr Adrian Stallwood:

‘Not only do the Cardiff GM mice experiments inflict terrible suffering on thoroughly vulnerable animals, they also squander precious scientific resources. Despite huge amounts of public and charity funding, experiments such as these are conspicuous for their failure to deliver benefits to patients. The vast majority of drug candidates that work in mouse models of cancer prove to be ineffective or toxic when tested in humans. We urge Cardiff University to take the humane and rational step of ending these experiments immediately.’

More information

Notes to editors

  1. Francia G, Kerbel R S (2010). Raising the bar for cancer therapy models. Nature Biotechnology. 28:561-562
  2. For more details of non-animal research methods see: Our Non-animal Research Methods for Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease factsheet.

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