Baa Baa Black Sheep: “Macabre” Animal Tests at Physiology Department

Major UK animal campaigns group Animal Aid criticise sheep vivisection at the Department of Physiology

Animal Aid Department of Physiology Dino Giussani Gonville and Caius medicine sheep

Animal Aid, Britain’s largest animal rights group, have slammed scientists at the Department of Physiology for experimentation on heavily pregnant ewes and their unborn lambs.

Details of the department’s research are included in a paper titled “Statin treatment depresses the fetal defence to acute hypoxia via increasing nitric oxide bioavailability” published in the Journal of Physiology, and co-authored by Dr Dino Giussani, Director of Studies for Medicine at Gonville and Caius College.

The gruesome experiment was designed to investigate the effect of cholesterol lowering drugs on pregnant women and their unborn children. During the test, procedures included the withholding of food from twelve heavily pregnant ewes, surgery so that “the fetal hind limbs were exteriorised,” and the insertion of catheters and tubes into fetal limbs, which were then “kept inside a plastic pouch sewn onto the maternal skin.”

Other Cambridge University experiments were condemned in a report published by Animal Aid in 2011

Later stages of the experiment included two separate occasions of 30 minutes of oxygen deprivation for the sheep and their unborn lambs, through the administration of a “large transparent respiratory hood” over each ewe. As part of the test, statin drug prevastin was intravenously injected into the fetuses, and half of the group were also injected with other drugs. Finally, the sheep involved were all put down, and post-mortem investigation conducted.

Animal Aid claim the experiment’s ethics are more than a little woolly…

Although the experiment received approval from Ethical Review Committee of the University of Cambridge, Animal Aid condemned it as “macabre and truly repugnant” in a press release issued last week. Animal Aid scientific advisor, Dr Adrian Stallwood described the methodology as “seriously flawed” and added that “it is hard to see how any clinical advance can come from this research.”

Speaking to The Tab, a spokesman for the University countered that “Without animal research, which is only used when there is no alternative, many treatments we take for granted today would not be possible.

“Our research, the majority of which is with mice, rats, fish and amphibians, has already made advances in treatments for a variety of diseases – advances that save lives and improve the well-being of individuals.”

Describing the study as “Home Office-licensed research on pregnant sheep,” the spokesman added that “the work offers real insight to the prevention of cerebral palsy induced as a result of reduced oxygenation during the birth process.”

In a comment to The Tab, a fresher medic at Caius had this to say: “Dr Giussani is clearly a brilliant academic, but morally, this experiment just seems plain baa-d.”