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

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Uncaged Campaigns Hold Protests Outside Xenotransplantation Companies

Outrage at "Frankenstein" animal experiments

A demonstration took place outside the troubled animal-testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), at 12 noon Monday 15th February, in response to the revelation that the company has provided facilities for controversial experiments where transgenic pig hearts and kidneys have been transplanted into primates, including baboons captured from the wild. This new information has been uncovered by a BBC Radio 5 Live documentary, Ed Hall Investigates..., broadcast 12 noon on Sunday 14th February.

HLS has also been exposed as a hiding place for the herd of unique pigs containing human genes. The pigs are owned by IMUTRAN LTD, a Cambridge-based subsidiary of NOVARTIS. The location of these pigs has been a closely-guarded secret until now.

Dan Lyons, spokesperson for pressure group UNCAGED CAMPAIGNS, organisers of the demonstration, explains:

"This research programme involves perhaps some of the cruellest experiments currently taking place in Britain. Humanised pigs are kept in unnatural, sterile conditions - condemned by the RSPCA - that frustrate the natural desires and instincts of these highly intelligent animals. Some primate recipients of pig organs have suffered and died because of the poisonous effects of high doses of immunosuppressant drugs that have been tested on them. Other primates have died because of infections that have arisen because their immune systems have been so damaged. The misery inflicted on these animals at HLS should not be allowed in a civilised society."

HLS has been in financial difficulties since employees of the company were filmed cruelly treating beagle dogs in the Channel Four documentary "It's a dog's life" in March 1997. With HLS's involvement in more controversial research now exposed, it's future looks even more uncertain. "This could be the final nail in HLS's coffin", remarks Dan Lyons.

Uncaged Campaigns 16.02.99


Imutran - "Global dealers in death"

A further demonstration took place at 3.00pm, Monday 15th February 1999, outside the offices of Imutran Ltd, Douglas House, Trumpington Road, Cambridge (by junction with Bentley Road).

Imutran are the Cambridge-based biotechnology company researching animal-to-human organ transplants. Campaigners are angry that Imutran have exported 95 transgenic pigs to countries all over the world. This information has come to light in a BBC Radio 5 Live documentary to be broadcast on Sunday 14 February, 12.00 noon. Until now, press reports had indicated that only two pigs had been exported, in May 1998, to the Netherlands.

Imutran, who are owned by the multinational drug company Novartis, have exported pigs for research and breeding purposes to the Netherlands, Canada, the USA, Japan, Spain and Italy. The transgenic pigs contain human DNA so that the pigs' organs may be suitable for transplant into humans, Imutran claim.

By exporting the transgenic pigs from the UK, Imutran are avoiding relatively strict British regulations on animal experiments and human trials. In animal experiments in the UK, welfare regulations have forced Imutran to euthanase suffering primates who have received transgenic pig organs. (1) Thus Imutran have lost the opportunity to gain more knowledge about how the pig organs are rejected by the primates. Back in 1995, Imutran claimed that they were ready to start trials of pig hearts in humans by the end of 1996. (2) However, the UK Government has consistently refused permission for human trials because of the fear of transferring a new viral disease into the human population as a result of such experiments, among other reasons. Similar sentiments caused the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe to vote on the 29 Jan for an on-going ban of human trials.

Dan Lyons, spokesperson for UNCAGED CAMPAIGNS, organisers of the demonstration, comments:

"Given that Novartis, owners of Imutran, are a global company, it is not surprising that they have taken the pigs to wherever they can conduct their experiments as quickly as possible. Imutran claim that they are concerned about safety and animal welfare, but their behaviour clearly demonstrates that they are prepared to sidestep safeguards in their haste to try to develop this technology. At the same time, Imutran/Novartis are inflicting immense suffering on intelligent, sensitive animals, while threatening to expose the public to the potentially lethal risk of new viruses."

References:

  1. John Wallwork, "Current status of xenotransplantation", International Journal of Cardiology 62 Suppl. 1 (1997) S38.
  2. David Dickson, "Pig heart transplant 'breakthrough' stirs debate over timing of trials", Nature, 377, 21 September 1995: 185.

International Week of Action Against Xenotransplantation

22nd February to 28th February 1999

An international week of action against xenotransplantation (animal-to-human transplants), running from 22 February 1999 to 28 February 1999, has been initiated by Sheffield-based pressure group Uncaged Campaigns, one of the UKs leading opponents of the technology.

A BBC Radio 5 Live documentary broadcast on Sunday 14th February 1999 uncovered an international trade in genetically engineered pigs. The transgenic pigs were bred by Imutran, a Cambridge-based biotechnology company owned by the multinational drug company Novartis. Ninety-five pigs have been exported to the USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands for both breeding and research purposes. Imutran claim that they have now bred two thousand transgenic pigs, most of whom are probably in the UK.

By exporting the transgenic pigs from the UK, Imutran are avoiding relatively strict British regulations on animal experiments and human trials. In animal experiments in the UK, welfare regulations have forced Imutran to euthanase suffering primates who have received transgenic pig organs. (1) Thus Imutran have lost the opportunity to gain more knowledge about how the pig organs are rejected by the primates. Back in 1995, Imutran claimed that they were ready to start trials of pig hearts in humans by the end of 1996. (2) However, the UK Government has consistently refused permission for human trials because of the fear of transferring a new viral disease into the human population as a result of such experiments, among other reasons. Similar sentiments caused the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe to vote on the 29 Jan for an on-going ban of human trials.

Given that Novartis, owners of Imutran, are a global company, it is not surprising that they have taken the pigs to wherever they can conduct their experiments as quickly as possible. Imutran claim that they are concerned about safety and animal welfare, but their behaviour clearly demonstrates that they are prepared to sidestep safeguards in their haste to try to develop this technology. At the same time, Imutran/Novartis are inflicting immense suffering on intelligent, sensitive animals, while threatening to expose the public to the potentially lethal risk of new viruses. Uncaged Campaigns contacted scores of animal protection organisations in several countries to ask them to participate in the week of action. Particular attention has been paid to groups in countries where xenotransplantation research is taking place, such as those countries that have imported Novartis transgenic pigs.

One of Canadas largest animal protection groups, Animal Alliance of Canada, are particularly worried about their domestic situation because trials involving the hooking up of patients to pig livers outside the body appear to be imminent. However the Canadian Government has failed to draw up any guidelines to regulate xenotransplantation, and public debate has virtually non-existent. Canadian bioethicists fear that these experiments may go-ahead before the Canadian public has even had an opportunity to contribute to the debate. Uncaged Campaigns are organising a letter to be submitted to the Canadian High Commission in London, respectfully requesting that the Canadian Federal Government consider our case for a complete ban on research into xenotransplantation.

Much of the UK activity has been focussed on Cambridge, home of Imutran. Events have taken place in Cambridge on every day of the week of action, instigated by a local organisation, Animal Rights Cambridge. Wednesday 24th February was the date for the largest action in the UK. A crack team of bio-troubleshooters successfully sealed off Imutrans offices on Trumpington Road, Cambridge, to symbolise our efforts to protect the public from the risk of viruses passing into the human population as a result of Imutrans activities. There were between 30 and 40 of such intredpid bio-troubleshooters - all dressed in blue boiler-suit style uniforms replete with biohazard symbols and face-masks. The day, and indeed the whole week, was a great success in bringing to the public's attention the immense dangers that could be unleashed upon the human population for the next millenium, as well as the abominable experiments being carried out on pigs and primates in the pursuit of this 'science' in Britain and around the world today.

This was all despite the rather bizarre presence of some sort of private investigator who attended all the events and even followed people home!

In addition to the Cambridge actions, Uncaged Campaigns will be touring towns and cities across the UK during the next week to distribute thousands of organ donor cards and registration forms (see Alternatives to xenotransplantation), and to alert the public to the dangers of xenotransplantation.

References:

  1. John Wallwork, Current status of xenotransplantation, International Journal of Cardiology 62 Suppl. 1 (1997) S38.
  2. David Dickson, 'Pig heart transplant ' breakthrough stirs debate over timing of trials, Nature, 377, 21 September 1995: 185.

Dan Lyons & Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 17.02.99


News Flash

Uncaged Campaigns discover first application to conduct trials of pig-human transplants has been received by UK Department of Health.

Yesterday (Thursday 21st January 1999), the UK Department of Health revealed that the United Kingdom Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority (UKXIRA) has received its first-ever application to conduct a trial of pig-to-human transplants. The application was received just before Christmas. No such trials have yet been permitted in the UK. The historic information emerged in answer to an inquiry made to the Authority today by Dan Lyons from the pressure group Uncaged Campaigns, who have been lobbying against xenotransplantation for the past two and a half years.

The Government has so far prevented human trials of xenotransplantation, mainly because of the risk of viruses transferring from pigs to humans and creating new disease in the general population. Test tube research has discovered that pig retroviruses can infect human cells. The genetic engineering of the pigs to try to prevent rejection, ironically, could make it easier for viruses to infect a recipient of pig tissue and then infect contacts of the patient.

An all party Commons Motion will be tabled calling for a brake on xenotransplantation trials until legislation is put before Parliament to discuss whether, and how, xenotransplantation should be regulated. Patients who receive pig tissue would have to be monitored for the rest of their lives for signs of viral infection, according to UKXIRA guidelines. However, such surveillance regimes are currently impossible to enforce - the necessary legislation simply doesn't exist at the moment.

Dan Lyons comments:

"To permit trials of this hazardous procedure without even being able to minimise the risk of viruses spreading is to multiply the danger to public health. I cannot believe that the Government would give permission for any trial before the issue is debated in Parliament."

Notes for Editors

  • The final decision on whether to permit human trials of xenotransplantation procedures rests with the Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, after UKXIRA have made their recommendation as to whether the trial should be permitted or not.
  • When guidelines for applications for clinical trials were published by the Government on 30 July 1998, Imutran Ltd, the leading UK researchers into xenotransplantation, announced their intention to conduct a trial involving filtering the blood of human patients through a pig liver housed externally to the patient in a matter of "months to years". Imutran then intend to move towards transplanting pig kidneys directly into humans. The Department of Health have refused to reveal any information about the nature of the application for reasons of protecting "commercial confidentiality". Imutran have denied that they have submitted the application. Imutran are owned by the multibillion pound pharmaceutical firm Novartis.
  • The main signatories on the House of Commons Early Day Motion are Norman Baker MP, Tom Brake MP (both Lib Dem), Maria Eagle MP, Paul Flynn MP (both Lab), David Amess (Con).
  • Uncaged Campaigns have formed and lead a network of organisations perturbed by xenotransplantation, called Xenotransplantation Concern (XtC). Other participants in XtC include Animal Aid, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), the National Anti-Vivisection Society, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Genetic Engineering Network and the Green Party.
  • Uncaged Campaigns have submitted 125,000 signatures to the Government calling for a ban on research and trials of xenotransplantation on animal rights/welfare, medical and safety grounds. As a result of another Uncaged Campaigns initiative, the Department of Health has so far received approx. 17,000 postcards from members of the public expressing opposition to xenotransplantation on ethical and medical grounds. A Teletext opinion poll on 1st August 1998 discovered 79% opposition to animal-to-human organ transplants. A poll conducted for the BUAV and CIWF by NOP found 54% of respondents disagree with transgenic research into xenotransplantation.
  • Text of EDM: That this House notes the recent submission of an application to the United Kingdom Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority (UKXIRA) to conduct a clinical trial of xenotransplantation procedures on humans; notes that, despite the theoretical benefits to transplant patients, there are major scientific obstacles and hazards to public health (in particular, the potential of introducing a new viral pathogen into the wider population) which remain to be addressed; observes that the required legal sanctions to enforce the UKXIRA-recommended surveillance regimes for any recipients of animal tissue are currently absent; recognises serious ethical and animal welfare concerns generated by the practice; acknowledges the existence of widespread public unease regarding xenotransplantation, as evidenced by opinion polls and petitions; and, in the light of these gaps in scientific knowledge, regulatory powers and the absence of informed public consent, calls upon the Government to withhold permission for human xenotransplantation trials pending unequivocal evidence of the microbiological safety and clinical effectiveness of xenotransplantation, and categorical public consent for the commencement of human trials and, subsequent to these conditions being satisfied, the introduction of the necessary legislation to ensure public health.

Uncaged Campaigns 22.01.99


Pigs Might Fly

Xenotransplantation
Or: Cross species organ transplant

Since the beginning of this century there have been many attempts to carry out animal-to-human transplants.

In the 1990's xenotransplants have taken place in the United States, involving both baboon and pig organs. None of the patients survived more than 70 days most died within hours.

Xenotransplantation

As part of our campaign about xenotransplantation, Uncaged have submitted to the government a report entitled "The Science and Ethics of Xenotransplantation". This extensively researched and closely argued document details all the significant medical and ethical issues raised by the proposals and represents a significant contribution to the public debate on this issue.

Uncaged also participated recently in a conference on xenotransplantation in Manchester. Organised by the Medical Research Council and the Nuffield Council on Bio-Ethics, the conference for science students featured speakers including one of the Papworth surgeons closely involved in the research. leading immunologists and the chairman of the Nuffield Committee on the Ethics of Xenotransplantation. With only 20 minutes to present the arguments against xenotransplantation at the end of a long day, we had an uphill struggle to counter the pro-xeno thrust of most of the day's presentations, but the opportunity to address the scientists of the future about the ethical implications of such use of animals was a rare and valuable one.

Organ Rejection

All transplanted organs, including human to human, are liable to rejection - the body's own defense mechanisms attempt to destroy the foreign organ. To try to prevent this, the body's defenses must be suppressed by large doses of very powerful and toxic immunosuppessant drugs. Yet, as Professor Sir Roy Calne, a leading expert in human transplants, points out, 20% of organs are rejected immediately and only 50-60% of transplants still work after 5 years. (Sunday Times 17.9.95)

Xenotransplants bring far greater dangers such as hyperacute rejection, an extremely strong reaction which destroys the xenotransplant within minutes. Pigs are now being genetically mutated using human genes in an attempt to try to weaken this reaction.

Spare Part Pigs

Should xenotransplantation become a reality, pigs will be turned into spare part factories and plundered for their organs. The uterus of the pregnant sow is cut out so her piglets can be born directly into sterile polystyrene cases, in order to reduce the risk of infection. Genetically mutated and raised in sterile environments, these remarkably intelligent animals face an unnatural and distressing existence.

In the meantime, many animals are being subjected to barbaric experiments: hamster hearts transplanted into rats... hearts removed from rabbits and sewn onto the necks of baby pigs... pigs hearts and kidneys grafted into rhesus monkeys. All of these animals have died.

Virus Danger Leads to Government Ban

There are many dangers inherent to xenotransplants, but the greatest is the prospect of viruses crossing from pigs to humans. Newly emerging viruses are now the biggest threat to humankind - and most of these are spread from other animals to humans. Many of these viruses are harmless in their natural home, but when they infect a new host species they can become deadly. Other disease organisms can also cross the species barrier with devastating effects, as B.S.E. has demonstrated. It is usually fairly difficult for a virus to cross from one species to another; however, transplanting a pig organ into a human with a severely weakened immune system is an open invitation for new viruses to infect the human population.

On the advice of independent scientists, the government has placed a temporary ban on animal-to-human transplants. Uncaged Campaigns aim to turn this into a permanent ban.

Money For False Hope

The long waiting list for organ transplants has given commercially-minded scientists the idea of using pig organs. The main promoter of xenotransplants is Novartis, a hugh Swiss drug company which also supplies the most common anti-rejection drug Cyclosporin. Despite the grave dangers and the suffering of animals, the potential market of an estimated $9 billion is providing too tempting for Novartis to resist. The future of the human race and the wellbeing of thousands of animals are being jeopardized for the sake of profit.

A Better Way

70% of the U.K. population are willing to donate their organs, but only 20% carry donor cards. Other countries have successfully improved the supply of organs by adopting a system whereby it is presumed that people consent to donate their organs unless they opt out. Uncaged Campaigns have distributed thousands of donor cards across the U.K. as a positive alternative to xenotransplants.

The best way of tackling ill health is to prevent it in the first place. Many incidents of organ failure can be attributed to lifestyle and environmental hazards. Even human-to-human transplants are fraught with difficulty and are very expensive. The overall impact of transplants on public health is very small indeed. A far more effective approach to improving health would be to tackle the causes of illness.

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