Imutran / Novartis Study Brings False Sense Of Security - Risk Of Epidemic
From Animal Organ Transplants Remains
The following statement is issued by Uncaged Campaigns in response
to the publication in this weeks edition of the journal Science
(20.8.99) of a study of 160 patients who had received live pig tissue.
Some reports claim that the study provides evidence to support the case
that animal organs will not pose a risk to public health as a result of
virus transmission from pigs to humans.
Dan Lyons, spokesperson for Uncaged Campaigns, says:
"The findings of this study are not a reliable guide to the
risk of virus transfer in the event of xenotransplantation taking place.
There are numerous problems with the design of the study.
- It is too small - in statistical, public health terms, 160 people
is a very small sample.
- The tests employed are, it is generally accepted, not powerful enough
to guarantee that any PERVs present will be definitely detected. The
collection and analysis methods used could also impact the results.
- It is universally acknowledged that there will be unknown pig viruses
present which cannot be tested for reliably.
- The numbers of cells (and therefore viruses) transplanted was much
less than would be the case in the event of whole organ xenotransplantation.
- None of the patients had received transgenic pig tissue. Imutran/Novartiss
xenografts would be transgenic. Virologists such as Robin Weiss have
warned that the transgenic xenografts could increase the chances of
a pig virus infecting a recipient and then the wider population.
- The explanation given for the presence of PERV DNA in some patients,
that pig cells have survived for up to eight and a half years in the
bloodstream, is not reassuring. Retroviral infections can remain latent
for many years before causing ill-effects. These kind of infections
can then transmit undetected through the human population for many
years, as the tragic example of HIV demonstrates.
Laboratory studies have already demonstrated that PERVs can infect
human cells. Furthermore, there are several examples of diseases crossing
from animals to humans with catastrophic effect . For example, the Spanish
influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed between 20 million and 40 million
people is thought to have been transmitted by pigs. Most new human diseases
originate in animals, and xenotransplantation provides a uniquely efficient
way of transmitting a new disease.
We fear that the results of this inconclusive study will be used
by Imutran / Novartis in a desperate attempt to protect their multi-million
pound investment in xenotransplantation, despite the abundant evidence
already available which demonstrates the intrinsic dangers of the technology.
We hope that the UK Government and regulators around the world
will resist ill-founded and irresponsible calls for clinical trials
to commence. Their first duty must be to protect public health, not
promote the commercial interests of the biotechnology industry. That
means banning xenotransplantation."
Notes for editors
- Uncaged Campaigns are the leading opponents of xenotransplantation
in the UK. Through our public education work we have submitted 125,000
signatures to the Government calling for a ban on xenotransplantation,
and the Health Secretary has received 20,000 postcards from members
of the general public expressing opposition to xenotransplantation on
public health and animal welfare/rights grounds.
- Dan Lyons is a PhD researcher into the ethics of xenotransplantation,
as well as directing Uncaged Campaigns project, Xenotransplantation
- Uncaged Campaigns latest action against xenotransplantation
took place in Cambridge, the home of Imutran, on 24 July this year.
400 concerned people from around the country joined together in a massive
ring-a-roses (see 'A'Tissue!' story below). Ring-a-roses is a medieval
childrens rhyme commemorating the devastating effects of the Great
Plague. The aim of the event was to highlight the danger of creating
a modern epidemic posed by xenotransplantation.
- For more information about xenotransplantation, click
Uncaged Campaigns 26.08.99
Victory! P&G Spurned By RSPCA
Procter & Gamble's attempt to use the RSPCA to endorse it's
new product Febreze (and falsely improve the company's public image) have
P&G and the RSPCA had been jointly conducting 'focus groups' to assess
the public's reaction to this proposed collaboration. The first focus
group involved RSPCA workers and volunteers. Some of them also happened
to be Uncaged Campaigns supporters, and were understandably outraged that
the RSPCA should be considering endorsing a major animal-testing company.
We spoke to the RSPCA on Thursday 26th August, who said that feedback
from these focus groups and letters and e-mails sent by concerned members
of the public who had be alerted by Uncaged Campaigns had persuaded the
RSPCA that they could not work with P&G to promote Febreze.
Thank you to everyone who contacted the RSPCA urging them to spurn P&G's
Angela Roberts & Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns
Cat Farm Closes
Friday 13th proved to be unlucky for Hill Grove cat farmer Chris
Brown and a great one for the Animal Rights movement, humanity and natural
justice, and about 800 cats previously doomed to a life of pain, torture
Christopher Brown, the owner the farm in Witney, Oxfordshire, which has
bred thousands of cats for cruel animal experiments, finally did what
all right-minded people had urged him to. Following a sustained two and
a half year campaign (which united all animal rights and welfare groups,
local residents and people from all backgrounds, ages and walks of life)
Brown threw in the towel.The RSPCA arrived in the middle of the night
to take away 800 innocent cats and kittens, saved from a future of unimaginable
pain, fear and distress.
Displaying typical arrogance, Brown made wild accusations of violence
against himself and his wife, yet also claimed that the campaign had had
little effect and that he was simply 'retiring.' However, one cannot doubt
the strength and impact of the Save the Hill Grove Cats campaign in ending
this obscene cat-breeding business (the last in Britain). Congratulations
and thanks must go to all those directly and indirectly involved in building
and coordinating efforts to shut down Hill Grove farm.
There are now 800 reprieved kittens and cats in need of loving homes.
Anyone interested in taking one of these very special creatures should
contact the RSPCA on 0906 256 0256.
The success of this campaign has given all those actively opposed to
animal experiments a great boost, and those skeptical that anything
can ever be stopped will have to think again.
News reports on TV, radio and in the press were all broadly supportive.
However, all made reference to 'violent demonstrations' - the vast majority
were peaceful, if noisy, affairs that one could, and did, take one's grandmother
to. The media supported their assertion by stating that 350 people had
been arrested and 21 jailed. However, taken against up to 1500 people
at each monthly demo over two years (not to mention all those present
at the weekly demos and vigils) the number of arrests pales into insignificance.
Radio 4's PM programme carried an interview with Mark Matfield
of the RDS (Research Defence Society) in which he justified Hill Grove
by claiming that many of the cats are used in the research of cat diseases.
However, when pushed by the questioner, he was unable to provide any examples
or numbers involved. Furthermore, this seems a singularly bizarre argument
in defence of experiments on animals. The main 'justification' for vivisection
used by people such as Brown and Matfield is that humans are fundamentally
different and superior to animals such as cats. Therefore, the wellbeing
of humans supposedly takes precedence over that of animals, making experiments
on latter for the benefit of the former fully justified. However, if a
cat is being bred and reared in appalling conditions, and then subjected
to cruel, painful and distressing experiments to benefit other cats, this
argument (taking it on their terms) simply does not stand up at all. Notwithstanding
such notions as justice, rights, compassion and humanity, the exploitation
of one group of creatures by another who are of absolutely equal type
and status is ethically and morally unnacceptable.
It was also claimed that closing Hill Grove was bad for animal welfare
because cats would now be farmed abroad where welfare regulations were
lless strict than in the UK. However, regulations and their enforcement
in this country are almost useless (as evidenced by the paltry amount
of visits by inspectors - often pre-arranged several months before
- and the pathetic slap on the wrists given to establishments that are
shown to flagrantly breach Home Office guidelines on animal welfare -
e.g. Huntingdon Life Sciences). Furthermore, just because something will
go abroad if one stops the practice at home, does not justify the continuation
of an abhorrent practice in one's own country. And besides, what about
the idea (that we've often heard about in relation to other matters) that
the UK can, and does, lead the way, and can be a beacon of ethical behaviour,
for the rest of the world to follow ? (as was the case in the abolition
of slavery and the slave trade..?)
Such ridiculous justifications by the RDS and their ilk, and desperate,
false and hypocritical accusations of violence and 'terrorism' aimed at
anti-vivisectionists (such as comparing the Save the Hill Grove Cats campaign
to methods used by the IRA, as Anne Leslie outrageously did on Saturday's
Breakfast TV news discussion) simply serves to highlight the complete
moral bankruptcy of their position.
Hill Grove cat farm is no more, but there are many other campaigns needing
the support of all the members of the public who helped Save the Hill
Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns
Procter & Gamble 'Policy Shift' Is Virtually Meaningless
On June 30 Procter & Gamble (P&G) (who have been the
subject of a global boycott campaign initiated by Uncaged Campaigns and
US group IDA -In Defense of Animals) issued a press release claiming that
they "will end the use of animal tests for its current beauty, fabric
and home care, and paper products, except where required by law."
"This announcement covers roughly 80% of P&G's total portfolio,
including color cosmetics, shampoos and hairstyling products, skin care
products, tissue and towel products, laundry and dishwashing detergents,
and household cleaners. This decision is effective immediately and in
all countries where the company operates. Science and technology have
advanced to the point where we can confirm the safety of these finished
products through non-animal alternatives."
Mr Gary Cunningham P&G's Public Affairs Director wrote to us stating:
"This means that in future animal testing will only be used
when required by law or to evaluate the safety of new ingredients and
new to the world products for which no validated non-animal tests exist."
The US media and sections of the British press seemed to think that this
was a major step forward by a 'company leading the way' in eradicating
animal tests. Even PETA in the US has "gathered up its extensive
campaign materials targeting Procter & Gamble's Tide, Charmin, and
other products and will dump them into a trash can at a news conference."
However, it only affects finished products that are already on the market.
Is this in fact any sort of real step forward at all? The lack of any
concrete figures for animal use and the exceptions cited by Procter &
Gamble lead us to suspect that P&G's announcement has more to do with
corporate propaganda than any meaningful attempt to tackle the suffering
and death they inflict on thousands of animals every year.
In his response to Mr Cunningham (below) Dan Lyons blew away the smokescreen...
Dear Mr Cunningham
Thank you for your letter and the copy of the press release from P&Gs
Cincinnati headquarters, which I read with great interest.
Having read through our files, I can see that the announcement heralds
the culmination of a lengthy process which has lead to the reduction
and final elimination of animal testing for non-drug products. (In a
letter to one of our supporters dated July 1997, P&G state: "we...
have reduced our animal testing for non-drug and non-food products by
90% since 1984.") In order to evaluate the positive impact for
animals that this policy change might have, I would be extremely grateful
if you could provide me with figures for the numbers of animals used
by P&G each year in this area of animal testing since 1984.
I note that this discontinuation of animal testing is limited as it
only covers finished product testing for P&Gs "current
beauty, fabric and home care and paper products." Obviously, I
am saddened that P&G will continue to force animals to be used as
test subjects "when required by law or to evaluate the safety of
new ingredients and new to the world products..." Notwithstanding
these exceptions, we do regard any steps made to reduce the numbers
of animals used by P&G as a positive development.
However, I think that you will agree that without more information,
it is hard for Uncaged Campaigns (or anyone else for that matter) to
assess the true impact of P&Gs policy change. Specifically,
I am concerned that the area of animal testing affected by the policy
change may, in fact, represent a small proportion of P&Gs
overall use of animals. The only way that P&Gs actions can
be independently evaluated is for the company to provide overall animal
use figures for every year since 1984. Coupled with the information
requested in the second paragraph, this will enable the public to judge
the true value of P&Gs cessation of animal testing for finished
non-food and non-drug products. I hope that you will agree that this
is a reasonable request for information on a matter which is of great
I will also take this opportunity to convey some of our thoughts on
P&Gs overall animal testing policy. Ultimately, the primary
reason for P&Gs animal testing is the role that it plays within
P&Gs overall corporate strategy. If we look at the types of
animal testing that P&G will continue to conduct, this will help
clarify this point.
Testing "when required by law or to evaluate the safety of new
ingredients and new to the world products..." clearly indicates
the role of animal testing in the development of new chemicals for consumption
in P&G products. The animal testing/novel ingredients connection
was reiterated by Mindy Patton, responsible for Corporate Communications
on the issue of animal research at P&Gs Cincinnati HQ, during
a P&G Conference Call in March 1998 (we have a copy of the transcript),
when she pointed to P&Gs world leadership in developing "new
to the world ingredients" as a major reason for P&Gs
animal testing practices in contrast to companies who do not test on
So, I think that we can agree that it is the use of novel ingredients
which leads to P&Gs animal testing.
If we leave aside the issue of whether animal tests can effectively
determine the safety of substances for human use or misuse, we are still
left with the dilemma:
P&G develops new ingredients and therefore tests on animals
P&G only uses ingredients with an established safety record, thereby
avoiding the "requirement" to test on animals
Now, P&G has obviously come to the conclusion that it is in their
interest to develop new ingredients, presumably because it believes
that this will help maintain a competitive edge over other companies,
thereby maximising sales and profits. Which brings us to the core of
P&G tests on animals because it believes that the development of
new products will help maximise their profits
Even if, for the sake of argument, we set aside the question of whether
P&G needs to test on animals to ensure the safety of new ingredients,
this still begs the question of whether P&G needs to use new ingredients
and develop new products in the first place. Obviously, P&G does
not need to in any meaningful sense of the term. The existence of a
new improved washing powder or shampoo does not justify inflicting pain
and suffering on animals. To be frank, you would have to be completely
warped to think that it would, and thats why P&Gs animal
testing is uncontroversially abhorrent, when one analyses the underlying
motivations for it.
I would be very grateful if you would take the time to consider the
analysis I have offered as an explanation of P&Gs animal testing,
and our opposition to it. If you can offer any comments, clarification
or corrections, I would be interested to hear them. I would be particularly
interested in seeing the figures I have requested from you describing
P&Gs animal use.
We await their response. Meanwhile, the struggle continues. Boycott
Procter & Gamble!
Dan Lyons & Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 19.08.99