A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Brits Divided Over Experiment on Kittens

kitten-experiment-cardiff-1-072612Is it OK to sew up the eyes of kittens, open up their brains, and then kill them? What about if it might lead scientists to better understand a disease that occasionally affects children?

After news broke of a vivisection experiment at Cardiff University in the U.K., people who care about animals, led by celebrity Ricky Gervais, expressed outrage. But in this “nation of animal lovers,”  when the tabloid Daily Mirror conducted a poll online, almost half of the 10,765 voters who took part said it was OK.

Tom Holder, of the vivisection advocacy group Speaking of Research, defended the experiments, which were conducted two years but only recently came to public attention. He said that childhood amblyopia (lazy eye) affects two to four percent of children in the U.K., and the kittens helped the university understand what goes on in the brain.

“In the Cardiff experiment all research on the kittens was done under anesthetic and strictly adhered to Home Office laws on animal welfare,” he said.

Except that some of the time the kittens were awake.

More than 30 kittens were used in the experiments, and all of them were killed. Five of them had their eyes sewn closed for up to a week, and 26 newborns were raised in darkness for up to 12 weeks. During the experiments, the kittens had their skulls opened and their brains examined.

125117902JF012_Boardwalk_EmComedian Ricky Gervais led the fury on behalf of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

“I am appalled that kittens are being deprived of sight by having their eyelids sewn shut,” he said. “I thought sickening experiments like these were a thing of the past.”

Dr. Ned Buyukmihci, founder of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, challenged the claim that the kittens did not suffer. “The eyelid procedures would have been painful for the kittens,” he said. “There are ­established methods of obtaining information humanely.”

The University of Cardiff defended itself, saying that “”It is impossible to use any other kind of ­technique for this study. The work was approved by both the University’s ethical review process and the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit as part of the licensing process.”

That doesn’t make it right, and Ralph Cook, Deputy Leader of the Cardiff City Council brushed away the university’s excuses. “It’s an academic producing a paper which is meaningless and can’t be transferred to humans,” he said. “Vivisection is completely wrong.”

On BBC TV, Nick Palmer, from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, debated with Tom Holder, from Speaking of Research. Get Adobe Flash player

Details of the experiments are at Wales Online.