‘Macabre and repugnant’ charity-funded sheep experiment condemned

Posted on the 13th February 2014

Pregnant sheep surgically mutilated
Unborn lambs brain-damaged
Cambridge University experiment part-funded by British Heart Foundation

A ‘macabre and truly repugnant’ experiment funded in part by the British Heart Foundation has been condemned by national campaign group Animal Aid. The experiment, which was performed at Cambridge University, involved getting sheep pregnant, cutting them open in late pregnancy, pulling out the limbs of their unborn lambs and inserting tubes and monitors into the babies’ legs. Subsequently, the umbilical cords were repeatedly crushed so as to induce brain damage in the lambs, and both mother and offspring were killed two days later.

Some of the ewes were given the drug allopurinol whilst their foetuses were being suffocated, but the experiment’s medical relevance has been questioned by Animal Aid’s Scientific Consultant, Dr Adrian Stallwood.

‘These kinds of foetal suffocation experiments have been performed for many years,’ says Dr Stallwood, ‘with piglets and rats being used repeatedly as well as sheep. Yet not one drug has emerged as useful for human medicine.’

The lethal sheep ‘procedure’ is the latest in a long line of grotesque BHF-funded experiments that were first exposed by Animal Aid in its Victims of Charityreport (2011). Previous examples include the surgical mutilation of more than 100 beagle dogs, the destruction of the natural heart function of goats, and giving rabbits heart attacks by tying off a major artery. As well as causing the animal victims a great deal of suffering, the procedures – according to Dr Stallwood – ‘have failed to deliver any advances to human medicine. This lack of progress,’ he notes, ‘is hardly surprising, given the fundamental interspecies differences that prevent the results of animal experiments from being reliably applied to humans.’

The sheep experiment is the first in a series of cruel and medically irrelevant procedures to feature on a newly launched Victims of Charity ‘action microsite’. Every two or three weeks, the site will reveal a shocking, recently published animal experiment funded by a UK medical research charity. The experiments will be described in a succinct, non-technical format, and both the animal suffering and faulty science will be exposed. Site visitors will be able to register their opposition with the charity concerned through email and social media. Over the weeks and months to follow, an archive of these shameful experiments will develop.

The results of an NOP poll commissioned by Animal Aid reveals an urgent need for the Victims of Charity initiative. More than 80 per cent of respondents said they would not donate to medical research charities that fund vivisection. Yet, given the huge financial support such charities currently receive, it is clear that the public has been kept in the dark about how their money is actually used.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: 

‘As well as being disgustingly cruel, the BHF-funded sheep experiment, like others we will be highlighting, has no relevance to human medicine. By adding a new example of charity-funded vivisection every few weeks, we will build an accessible and powerfully evocative online archive that will bring home to people the horror and pointlessness of animal experimentation. And, because charities like the BHF depend entirely on public donations, their supporters can have a direct influence on the kind of research it commissions in the future. Our goal is to build sufficient public pressure to convince the charities concerned that their own best interests lie in funding only ethical and productive non-animal research.’

Notes to Editors

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