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Otago University A Major Vivisection Centre

Vivisection at Otago University Produced by the National Anti Vivisection Campaign

Otago University in Dunedin is one of the major vivisection centres in the country, and hosts a breeding centre which is vital to the vivisection industry nationally. In 2003, Otago University used 13379 animals in research and teaching. Animals used included 2209 mice, 2561 rats, 117 guinea pigs, 34 rabbits, 20 pigs, 218 sheep and 41 pigeons, as well as many thousands of fish and crustaceans. 57 mice were transgenic. The experiments involving the most suffering were conducted on rats, with 883 used in "moderate suffering " experiments.

The Otago University Animal Breeding Centre in Mosgiel is one of New Zealand 's largest lab animal breeding centres. Every year they breed rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice for supply to vivisection labs around the country.

Detailed information on experiments at Otago University is difficult to obtain, but NAVC has obtained some information concerning a group of researchers headed by Professors Paul Smith and Cynthia Darlington who have carried out brain experiments on guineapigs at Otago for more than a decade. The vestibular research group has carried out many experiments involved the study of Unilateral Labyrinthectomy (a surgical procedure in which the inner ear organs on one side of an animal's head are destroyed).

In one experiment, designed to test the effects of a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) on the brains of guineapigs, 30 animals had a metal cannula inserted into the brain. The cannula was attached to the skull using screws and dental cement. A week later, on the day of the experiment, a mini pump and catheter were implanted under the skin of the shoulder blades, and a Unilateral Labyrinthectomy was carried out. This surgery involves opening up one side of the guineapig's head and using a dental drill to destroy the bones in the inner ear (responsible for balance). After surgery the animals were placed in separate boxes with perspex windows at the front. Video cameras were used to record the head and eye movements for up to 50 hours after surgery. BDNF was given in various doses to the guineapigs and the effects measured.

In an experiment published last year, the researchers induced hypothermia in guineapigs while carrying out the Unilateral Labyrinthectomy. They found that the animals exposed to hypothermia during the operation took a significantly longer time to recover from the surgery.

Despite these published reports, Otago University has refused to release information held by the Otago University Animal Ethics Committee describing why these experiments were approved.

Some of the other prolific animal experimenters at Otago include Chris Bolter, who studies the nervous system in guinea pigs, and Associate Professor David Bilkey who has published numerous studies involving brain damage in rats. For example, one experiment involved inflicting brain lesions on rats and implanting electrodes into the brain and recording brainwaves in order to find out what effect the injuries had on the rats memory.

The National Anti Vivisection Campaign says using animals in medical research is wasteful and unreliable.

Spokesperson Mark Eden says " Using animals as models for human disease is inherently unreliable because of the differences between humans and other species. For example, penicillin is a useful drug in humans, but it kills guinea pigs".

"If we want to advance the cause of human medicine we should stop wasting money on torturing animals in labs and focus on safe ethical clinical studies of human disease".

The National Anti Vivisection Campaign is the only organisation in New Zealand focusing solely on actively campaigning for the abolition of vivisection. NAVC opposes all harmful research on animals, on ethical and scientific grounds.

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