SPEAK rebuffed by Home Office


CALLS for Oxford University’s animal testing licence to be suspended pending a full Home Office inquiry have been thrown out by Parliament.
Controversy surrounding the death of Felix, a macaque monkey used in the University’s animal experiments, led Portsmouth Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock to demand an investigation.
He asked the Home Secretary to assess whether the treatment of the monkey met with the terms of the laboratory’s license and to suspend the license in the meantime.
But on Tuesday, in a written Commons reply, Junior Home Office minister Meg Hillier said that the procedure was “in accordance with requirements of the relevant project licence.”
Hillier suggested there was no need to alter or suspend the license.
She said, “The University has advised that Felix was humanely killed in early June 2007 on completion of the work in which he was involved and in accordance with the requirements of the relevant project licence.”
She added, “I am satisfied that the requirements of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 have been fully met and I do not consider there is a need to vary or suspend the licence.”
Felix was used by renowned neurosurgeon Professor Tipu Aziz, a tutor at Magdalen College, as part of his research into Parkinson’s disease.
As part of the research, a toxin was injected in its veins to create symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, causing muscle seizures and electrically stimulating its brain.
In June, following the end of the experiments, which were needed before any human trials could be carried out, the monkey was killed due to legal requirements.
In response to Felix’s death, animal rights group SPEAK embarked on the first leg of its ‘Felix Campaign Tour,’ which aims to “end the fraudulent and grotesque practice of vivisection at Oxford University”.
The anti-vivisection tour will visit universities involved in what SPEAK considers to be abusing animals in laboratories. The campaign has already held a demonstration at Manchester University Medical School.
In response to the Home Office’s decision, SPEAK supporter Emma Speed said, “It’s a disgrace that the government is willing to allow experiments which have been banned in Switzerland and Germany and other countries due to the cruelty involved.”
She added, “These experiments do not work, they’re not ethically right. They’re not scientifically right. We’ll continue campaigning to stop them.”
Tom Holder, spokesman for pro-animal testing group ProTest said, “It is standard practice to terminate an animal after the research is finished. Is prevents the possibility of the animal living in any pain that may come at a later date as a result of the experiments. I am glad the Home Office has rejected Mr Hancock’s request.”
Felix has also been at the centre of campaigns by other animal rights groups. In April, an 88-year-old member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), an anti-vivisection organization, fasted for 48 hours in a small cage. Joan Collins was protesting against the experiments being performed upon Felix and other monkeys by Professor Aziz.
On Saturday, one SPEAK member will sit in a cage to raise money for the Felix Campaign. According to SPEAK’s website he will be “imprisoned and unable to move inside ‘the chair’…‘The chair’ is the name given to the tiny cage which Felix was forced to sit in whilst performing repetitive tasks for anything up to six hours each day.”
Last November Felix featured in the BBC documentary ‘Monkeys, Rats and Me’, which depicted the work on primates by Professor Aziz and his colleagues in Oxford and the controversy it has generated.
SPEAK promises to continue to hold demonstrations at Oxford University, protesting against the new animal experimentation laboratory being built on South Parks Road.By Mohsin Khan


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