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Historic Breakthrough for Animal Rights

New Zealand's Parliament has created a world first by enshrining in law specific protection for "non-human hominids," more commonly known as great apes.

At 5.45 pm local time, October 12 1999  the Animal Welfare Act was given its 3rd reading and will be law from January 1st 2000. There are five great ape species: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and humans, and are all in the same genetic family.

From the beginning of the next millennium the use of great apes will be prohibited in research, testing, or teaching. The NZ Minister for Food and Fibre, John Luxton, who was responsible for the passage of the bill through Parliament, stated, "This requirement recognizes the advanced cognitive and emotional capacity of great apes. New Zealand is the first country in the world to legislate in this way."

Such recognition is based on scientific evidence that the nonhuman great apes share not only our genes but also our basic human mental traits, such as self-awareness, intelligence and other forms of mental insight, the ability to fashion rudimentary tools, complex communications and social systems, even the ability to master some human language.

The Great Ape Project (GAP) -International has been at the forefront of campaigning on this issue. The organisation's vice-president, Paul Waldau, stated:

"Ultimately GAP would like to see the non-human great apes accorded standing in legal systems throughout the world. This would permit them to be protected by rights to life, liberty, and freedom from torture. Additionally we'd like to have the United Nations provide realistic recognition and protections." Paul Waldau hailed the groundbreaking legislation as, "part of the trend toward recognising the complex mental, social and individual realities of other animals' lives."

This trend has also manifested itself in the explosion of interest shown by US law schools in the status of other animals, recently confirmed by Harvard University's decision to offer an animal law course in the Spring of 2000. This course, to be taught by Stephen Wise, author of a forthcoming book Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals,

"will discuss the sources and characteristics of fundamental rights, why humans are entitled to them, why non-human animals have been denied them, whether legal rights should be limited to humans, and if not what non-human animals should be entitled to them under the common law."

We believe it is self-evident that all non-human animals have the the right to life, liberty, and freedom from torture and distress (see Universal Declaration of Animal Rights). All animals of different species feel both physical and mental pain (one only has to watch videos of beagles cowering at the back of their cells at Huntingdon Life Sciences or Harlan UK to observe mental pain and anguish). That intelligence and mental insight are not solely the domain of great apes is clear to most ordinary people and animal behaviorists. Anybody who has developed affective relationships with animals or observed them (particularly in their natural habitat) will testify to that.   Only the absurd musings of philosophers like Descartes have sought to deny the obvious. If there is any difference in intelligence and mental insight between species it is only in degree.

This view is given further scientific backing by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. The ethical implication of evolutionary theory is that as humans have descended from other animals, morally speaking, differences between humans and other animals - if they exist at all - are only in degree not in kind. We humans have a kinship not just with other human and non-human great apes, but with all non-human animals.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns
[Source: Times HES 1/9; Worldanimal.net 12/10; GAPNews@aol.com 12/10]

Lifestyle-Drug Addict Animals & Useless Research

The consequences of research into the development of ‘lifestyle’ drugs are: baboons addicted to cocaine, rats tortured with electric shocks, and beagles vivisected in horrific and useless experiments - as revealed by documents obtained by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and the Observer (31.10.99). The tests for the development of an new drug to combat severe anxiety in humans by Danish company H Lundbeck, are estimated to have killed more than 3,000 animals.

In addiction tests at John Hopkins University, Washington, USA, three baboons were kept in isolation cages and had a needle and tube fixed into their veins, through which the scientists pumped cocaine. The baboons learnt to flick a switch to deliver injections at any time of day or night. As soon as these primates had been turned into hardened addicts, the cocaine was replaced with the test drug to see if it would satisfy their intense physical and mental addictive cravings. The theory scientists were trying to test was that their unfortunate subjects would use less of the new drug if it was not addictive.

Dr Gill Langley, scientific advisor to the BUAV, said the purpose of getting the baboons hooked on cocaine was just to make sure they are prone to addiction. She said: "This is one of the worst experiments in this whole catalogue of suffering. The baboons would have suffered cocaine-withdrawal symptoms, which may include fatigue, craving, mental disturbance and depression."

The documents also underline the irrelevance to humans of data derived from animal tests and how confusing they can be. The observer reported: "H Lundbeck say that earlier tests on rats, tempted to stay in an unnatural environment with the drug as the ‘reward,’ was positive so, 'international guidelines meant we had to proceed to the baboon test, which was negative.' The company added that the rat test is recognised by the authorities as providing a false positive results but negative results are accepted." [my italics]

Tests, in which stress, pain and anxiety are deliberately induced in animals are crude and simplistic in that they attempt to artificially recreate the complexities of the human mind in a human social environment. Rats were deprived of water for 48 hours, and during a six minute test electrocuted every 20 times they licked a metal drinking tube. If they tolerated more shocks after being given the drug, it was supposed to have reduced their anxiety. However, another interpretation of the results could be that the mice simply became more desperate for food, and therefore willing to tolerate more shocks in order to get it.

Mice were made to swim in a container of water from which there was no escape. After a while of furious swimming, they stopped and trod water. The drug prolonged the frantic swimming and was considered to have deferred despair. Once again an alternative, but just as likely interpretation of the results is that the mice could have been simply conserving energy to prevent themselves from drowning.

Marmosets were forced to stay in human company, which frightens them (understandably given their past experience of humans). The drug did not appear to make them less stressed.

Several British commercial laboratories and academics have conducted experiments for H Lundbeck. Quintiles Scotland, Edinburgh, carried out tests to study how the drug impacted on the heart and blood activity of beagles. Two dogs were killed because of errors during the experiments. Quintiles used 18 beagles, acquired from Harlan UK in Belton, Loughborough. The dogs were artificially ventilated while their chests were cut open, catheters inserted into their blood vessels and electrodes sewn onto their hearts. Heart activity and blood circulation were recorded for an hour without, then with the drug. It appeared to have no effect, and the animals were killed.

Huntingdon Life Sciences at Eye, Suffolk, tested 100 mice by giving them daily doses of the drug. The results showed anaemia and appeared to change heart and liver weights.

Quintiles in Ledbury, Herefordshire, gave 120 rats the drug for 13 weeks. It resulted in hair loss, salivation, and damage to their blood, kidneys, adrenal glands and livers.

The University of Bradford is among other British laboratories to have submitted reports to H Lundbeck. Here mice and rats were injected with the drug and subjected to pointless anxiety tests.

The drug is undergoing clinical trials in humans, and the company intends to launch it in 2004. These documents reveal clues about the secretive pharmaceutical industry. A BUAV spokesperson said: "It is alarming that these are the sorts of tests being carried out prior to going into human volunteers." Alarm stems from the fact that these experiments are incredibly crude and simplistic attempts to artificially recreate complex human-like conditions in animals; and they produced a blizzard of confusing and conflicting results that were open to several interpretations. These tests will be dangerously misleading in the development of drugs or treatments for human use.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns
[Source: Observer 31/10]


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.