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Friday, 23 October 2015

From the pages of the news – lab animal testing

EU laws regarding all animal experiments have altered recently. Now, all such experiments must be classified into one of five categories that measure pain. Home Office statistics have just been released.

            Animal experimentation has been a controversial and contentious subject for many years. It’s thanks to this public concern over the subject that testing of cosmetic products on animals has long been banned in Britain.

            Advocates argue that animal research is vital if science is to ease human suffering from disease. The latest developments in restoring sight, slowing down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the treatments of Ebola and even work on restoring mobility to paralysed people have been at the cost of research on animals prior to extending trials to humans.

            Recently released Home Office statistics suggest that one in twenty of the 3.87 million animal experiments carried out by British universities, drug companies and charities in 2014 caused severe suffering. In mitigation, that number of animal experiments is 6% less than the previous year; however, the data collection method has altered so perhaps it isn’t so positive after all. Most animals are mice and rats, but there were also small numbers of cats, dogs, rabbits and monkeys - about 180,000 subjected to 'almost unbearable' pain.

            My novel Catalyst is about Catherine Vibrissae’s vendetta against the global corporation Cerberus, which deals in chemistry, cosmetics, plastics, drug creation and manufacture. Here’s a relevant extract from Chapter 2: Cat and Mouse:
Len led Cat through the right-hand doorway, out into a corridor. They trailed puddles behind them. As he strode ahead, his movement emitted a weird susurration from his clothing. He flashed the light at the doors on either side, finally stopping in front of the room labelled Lab-A.

“Bingo.” He chuckled. “By God, I’ve been waiting for this for quite a while.” He opened the door. She entered behind him and stepped to one side.

There was a distinct ‘pet shop’ smell in the room and she was met by strange scuffling sounds. A dog growled in the shadows, the sound sending her heart into her stomach.

She shut the door behind her. “Len?” she queried, apprehension in her voice.

“It’s OK. Put the lights on.”

She found it and flicked the switch.

Snarling, teeth bared, hackles up, the black mastiff covered the floor in swift loping strides.

Len held a pistol and fired.

A dart pierced the animal’s chest and it tumbled heavily to the floor, coming to rest at her feet. “That’s fast-acting,” she managed.

“I’m surprised they keep him in here, poor mutt. Must be lonely.” He gestured with the empty anaesthetic gun at the length of benches.

“Oh, my God.” Tears brimmed her eyes.

Tier upon tier of cages in assorted sizes ran along the benches on both sides, the full length of the room. Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and rats – and half a dozen cats.

“Cats are usually kept for neurological testing,” Len said in a puzzled tone. “Don’t know what they’re doing in a cosmetics lab.”

Her heart felt like it was shrinking. She wiped her eyes. “It’s a bit academic, isn’t it? They shouldn’t be testing animals for cosmetics at all. That’s the law.”

He snorted loudly. “Sure, the ban’s been in place here for over a dozen years, but if they can flout it for their benefit – and profit – then they’ll try, won’t they?”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Maybe they’re testing for wrinkle treatment – botulinum toxin.”


“Yes. It’s exempt from the ban, as it happens.”

“Oh, my God. Really?”

She scanned the room. At the far end was a computer workstation and on an adjacent desk a laptop, its lid raised.

He put the dart gun in his bag and pulled out a video camera, started panning left and right, careful not to get Cat in the frame.

“This is just what I need.” She pulled out her Olympus camera and moved about, taking a series of photographs.

Then she stopped in front of the rabbit cages. “They’re all albinos!”

“They seem the best subjects, or so they say. More sensitive, I guess.” He pointed to the laptop’s screen. It showed columns of typed notes and figures. “These are Draize test results. It’s a test on their eyes and skin, monitoring any toxicity and irritation – and the animals do get the odd side-effects, depending on the test substances.”

She photographed the screen image, pleased to note the Cerberus heading and the dates alongside tabulated results. “What kind of side-effects?”

“Ulceration, haemorrhaging, blindness,” Len replied. “They’re killed after the test.”

Cat shuddered and ran a finger over her lips. She hadn’t put on lipstick for tonight, obviously. She wondered if she’d ever want to wear the stuff again.

She moved to the caged mice and took more pictures. “Cute, aren’t they?”

“They’re used because mice share a high percentage of genes with us humans. Tough luck on them, eh?”

“Poor things.”

He gave a half-hearted shrug. “They could have ended up in a legal lab – for medical or warfare testing.”

“Considering your feelings, I’m surprised you’re so sanguine about this.”

“Virtually all our medicines and the lotions we use are as a result of pre-ban animal testing. It’s a complex subject, tainted by unethical people who work here and the rabid activists who threaten legitimate researchers with maiming and death.”

Yes, complex, she thought. All about unnecessary suffering and pain. “I’ve got enough, I think.” She capped the camera and put it in her bag.

“Let’s go, then.”

At the door, she paused. “What about the animals?”

“We leave them here. I’m not doing this to trash private property or release animals that’ll end up being run over by a lorry an hour later.”

“All right.” Before they’d set out, Len had ranted on about the extreme activists who seemed quite demented. Digging a woman’s corpse from a grave was not only quite horrible, it was insane, he’d said. He had no wish to intimidate researchers or attract the attention of the National Crime Agency.


Catalyst, published by Crooked Cat Publishing in e-book and paperback formats, available from these sites, or by ordering from any good bookshop:

BARNES & NOBLE books here
SMASHWORDS books here
KOBO books here
AMAZON COM books here
AMAZON UK books here

Catacomb, the sequel to Catalyst has just been published:

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