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Serious Animal Welfare Issues In GE Sheep Approval

The Environmental Risk Management Authority's decision to approve an application to genetically engineer double-muscled sheep in the middle of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into genetic engineering is bizarre, Green MP and Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

"Whatever happened to the voluntary moratorium?" she asked. "Why is a government-funded research institute breaking the voluntary moratorium in this way? Why has one Crown Research Institute (the Forest Research Institute) just announced it is voluntarily delaying its planned field trials of GE pine trees until the Royal Commission has completed its application, while another is defiantly proceeding with its controversial experiments?" she said.

Ms Kedgley said ERMA's approval of AgResearch's application to genetically engineer double muscled sheep raised serious ethical and animal welfare issues.

AgResearch admitted in its application that the sheep it is genetically engineering could be deformed in various ways, Ms Kedgley said. The transgenic sheep could have smaller organs such as hearts, delayed sexual maturation, reduced fertility and birthing difficulties.

As well, Ag Reseach has admitted that part of its myostatin research programme to develop mysostatin knockout sheep to find medical models of heart failure, muscular damage and dystrophy involved mechanically inducing heart attacks in sheep, Ms Kedgley said.

"I find the idea of scientists deliberately inducing heart attacks in sheep repugnant," she said.

Scientists are carrying out research in laboratories which causes animals to suffer in the hope that this may eventually result in a decrease in human suffering, she said. But society as a whole should debate the ethics of causing such suffering to animals.

"Given that heart disease is primarily dietary in origin, and there are well-documented dietary cures available for heart disease, it raises further questions about the ethics of experimenting with animals in this way," she said.

Ends


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