maim lab mice with ballpoints - Marie
Woolf, The Sunday Times
of animals being used to test a wrinkle-erasing rival to Botox are facing
cruel and agonising experiments at a Home Office-approved laboratory, an
undercover investigation has found. Secret
footage of the tests on Dysport, a drug used to erase frown lines in cosmetic
surgery clinics, shows laboratory staff accidentally breaking the backs
of mice when trying to kill them with ballpoint pens. The pens were then
used to fill out their death records. The
film, obtained using a hidden camera inside Wickham Laboratories, a long-established
facility in Hampshire that tests drugs for pharmaceutical companies, also
shows rabbits being incompetently injected with other drugs.
are filmed botching injections and swearing at struggling rabbits, which
are immobilised in “stocks” for up to eight hours in experiments
that test whether drugs cause fevers. Many
of the rabbit tests, although licensed by the government, are not required
under international pharmaceutical testing standards. The Home Office itself
boasts about how these tests can be replaced by “a new technique using
human blood cells instead of rabbits”.
footage, shot by an investigator from the British Union for the Abolition
of Vivisection, has led the government to launch an inquiry. A Home Office
spokesman said: “We take these allegations seriously and are taking
urgent steps to look into them further. We authorise animal research only
when it can be justified.
expect and require the highest standards, and will thoroughly examine any
evidence that suggests these standards are not being met.”
filming, compiled over a period of eight months, included a sequence in
which a member of staff made a number of attempts to inject a rabbit. She
is recorded calling the animal “a little shit” and “a
disgrace”. She warned the rabbit that it could end up with “ear-rings”
— a reference to punctures in its ear from failed attempts at injections.
Another member of staff is recorded remarking that blood is coming out of
the rabbit’s ear.
Cartmell, the official vet charged with overseeing the welfare of the animals
used for testing at Wickham, is also a founder and a big shareholder in
the company. Last
night he denied that this represented a potential conflict of interest and
said he was “a professional”. Lab
records seen by the BUAV investigator show that Cartmell’s weekly
inspections sometimes took 15 minutes, with one visit in March this year
lasting only eight minutes. He argued this was adequate to check that the
animals were being treated well and not suffering.
health status of the animals is at such a high level that the length of
time involved is more than adequate,” he said. “The animals
are under constant care unlike pet animals and farm animals.”
which is made from botulinum toxin, is licensed in Britain for medical use
to treat conditions such as involuntary eye muscle contractions, facial
twitches and muscle spasms. However,
it is also used legitimately “off-label” as an alternative to
Botox for cosmetic treatments to eliminate frown lines and wrinkles. Each
batch has to be tested by law to ensure that it is safe and of the correct
potency. Lab records seen by the investigator show that 41,088 mice were
used in Dysport tests at Wickham between January and June this year. The
method used — lethal dose 50 (LD50) — is classed as a “very
severe” test by the government. Mice are injected with the toxin.
They suffer progressive paralysis and the film shows them lurching from
side to side as they become unable to walk properly. Some appear to suffer
severe breathing difficulties before dying.
regulations require suffering animals to be put out of their misery. Wickham
Laboratories’ records indicate that far more mice died during the
tests than were killed humanely. Official guidelines allow mice to have
their necks broken to ensure a quick death, and pens are often used to do
this. But film shot at Wickham shows that some were left writhing after
their backs were mistakenly broken by staff. Alternatives to the LD50 test
have been developed and are being used at other laboratories in Britain.
official government laboratory, the National Institute for Biological Standards
and Control, uses non-lethal methods to test Dysport. Ten years ago it developed
a test of the toxin using a test tube. It also uses a far less severe test
on mice that does not kill them. The
BUAV, which has eight months of footage from Wickham, said the treatment
of many animals was “appalling”. Sarah
Kite, BUAV’s special projects director, said: “The fact that
extremely sick mice end up in the hands of incompetent staff, to have their
backs broken and suffer such an agonising death is totally sickening.
shocking findings show that crude, archaic and extremely cruel animal tests
are still allowed in the UK even when an alternative test exists and animal
testing is not required by official bodies.”
revelations about the testing at Wickham have shocked dermatologists who
use Dysport. Nick Lowe, who is known as Dr Botox and has conducted research
into the toxin, said he was surprised that the LD50 test was still being
used. Lowe, whose
clients at his London clinic include Anne Robinson, the television presenter,
said he was “appalled” to hear that animals were being allowed
to suffer in tests on the drug.
would like to know that all the drugs I prescribe for patients are evaluated
in ethical ways. With my own range of skin-care products we do absolutely
no animal testing. I am not in favour of that type of testing at all. I
want the highest ethical standards,” he said.
Biopharm, which manufactures Dysport, said it took the “allegations
very seriously” and would be following them up with Wickham. “Animal
welfare is of primary importance to Ipsen, and the approval of Wickham by
the Home Office has been critical in Ipsen’s decision to work with
this company,” said a spokesman.
no way would I, or any member of Ipsen staff, condone practices outside
the approved procedures laid down for this type of test.”
said that it used the LD50 test because it was required to but was “striving
to replace the LD50 test as soon as suitable alternatives have been approved
by worldwide regulatory authorities”. Chris
Bishop, the technical director of Wickham Laboratories, said he could not
comment on the footage but would seek opportunities to improve lab practice.
He said the company’s “animal technicians undergo extensive
have a culture of seeking continuous improvement and if there are observations
which indicate such opportunities, we shall gladly embrace them, ”
company added: “The welfare and care of our research animals is paramount.”
Home Office’s policy is to license animal experiments only “when
there is no alternative research technique”.
say they will not license tests which “cause severe pain or distress
that cannot be alleviated” or where the animal’s death is the
government has banned the testing of cosmetics, such as make-up and face
creams, on animals.
on animals rose to 3.7m procedures in 2008, up 450,000 on the previous year.
and rats are the most commonly used animals in tests. The government also
allows dogs, cats, horses and primates. Last year 3,354 primates and 4,271
dogs were used in tests in UK labs.
have a legal duty to keep animal suffering to a minimum. There are strict
standards for humane killing, animal care, housing and health.
in full the ALF's dramatic exposé of Wickham's Botox Testing Programme
as revealed in 2003