Stop UBC Animal Research activists question UBC experiments on animals

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      A spokesperson with a new animal-rights group says he refused to dissect worms in a high-school biology class.

      And Brian Vincent, a member of Stop UBC Animal Research, told the Georgia Straight that he predicts “public outrage” when people learn the full extent of UBC’s animal-research program, which is funded by taxpayers.

      A feature in the Ubyssey student newspaper in January 2008 claimed that every year UBC’s many animal-care centres distribute about 100,000 creatures, large and small, to dozens of UBC-affiliated research projects.

      “I think UBC likes to pride itself on its reputation,” Vincent said at a Kitsilano coffee shop. “This could sully the very reputation UBC has worked very hard to establish.”

      John Hepburn, UBC’s vice president of research, told the Straight this is “actually not true”.

      “There have been public-opinion surveys done on the use of animals in research, and there has been no shortage of information about invasive research on animals, and it is a 60- to 70-percent approval rating,” Hepburn said by phone.

      Regarding the 100,000-animals figure, Hepburn said that was a “reasonable estimate”. He also confirmed that UBC is responsible for about “10 percent of the health-research enterprise in Canada”.

      Stop UBC Animal Research spokesperson Rita Mashinsky asks if we need an animal charter of rights and freedoms. />

      A major barrier to greater public awareness, according to Vincent, is the university’s lack of openness about what it is doing. However, he has rallied support around the issue, and during the summer he unearthed one researcher’s published experiments on cats, going back from 2008 to about 1980. The researcher stated in his papers that he had “implanted electrodes into cats’ foreheads, brains, bones behind the eyes, and neck muscles”, and at one point performed surgeries on cats and inserted titanium screws in their spinal columns.

      Hepburn conceded about the UBC experiment, “That was invasive research, yes.”

      Rita Mashinsky, also a spokesperson with Stop UBC Animal Research, told the Straight, “This is beyond our comprehension. This is what we call the epitome of sadism, and this is permitted. It’s legal, and there is funding for it. I think the main point here is—the bigger picture of it is—why is the public so unaware of what is going on behind closed doors?”

      Hepburn countered that UBC has an “open research policy”.

      “So research that is done at UBC has to be openly published,” he said. “So we don’t do secret research.”

      Vincent said he wants an end to all animal research at UBC, but he initially wants assurance from UBC that its researchers have stopped experimenting on cats. He said UBC will not go on record and confirm this.

      “I can say that we’re not doing it right now,” Hepburn responded. “But the difficulty with doing that is, I don’t want to imply that we’ll never do it again, because animals get used in research for valid scientific reasons.”

      Every year in Canada, approximately two million animals are involved in research, according to information contained in an on-line manual of the Canadian Council on Animal Care, which regulates research on animals. Vincent said that this is up from about 1.8 million in 1998.

      “It’s [UBC is] at the forefront of that [upward] trend.”

      Earlier this month, the European Union voted to ban the use of great apes in animal testing following two years of debate in the European parliament. Vincent said this is all the more reason for UBC to do the right thing. On September 22 from 7 to 9 p.m., his group, which has approximately 200 members, will hold a public meeting at the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation building at 2150 Maple Street in Kitsilano.

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      Jay W.

      Sep 15, 2010 at 8:57pm

      Use incarcerated criminals or volunteers


      Sep 15, 2010 at 9:51pm

      I have been pretty disturbed to learn about all the supposedly necessary animal testing going on at UBC. I've heard that they're still doing tests on guinea pigs to find out if smoking is bad for you--seriously!! These are the kind of "valid scientific reasons" that UBC is bragging about?? Plus, they're still testing on primates, which I personally consider pretty unethical. And CATS??

      If there's nothing wrong with what they're doing and if it's so important, they should let us know what we--the taxpayers--are paying for. Otherwise they should just join the rest of the world in the 21st century, where technological advances are beginning to render animal testing unnecessary. (Thank goodness.)

      Brian Vincent

      Sep 15, 2010 at 10:14pm

      What UBC's Dr. Hepburn fails to mention is the university's lack of transparency. For instance, the Canadian Council on Animal Care's assessments of UBC's animal research are confidential. So are any records that may show non-compliance with animal care standards.

      In addition, data made available about animal research in Canada is woefully inadequate. The public has no way to know how many animals and what species of animals are being experimented on at UBC.

      Furthermore, published papers on animal research are not current, which means we don't have any real-time information about UBC's research activities.

      Finally, UBC has denied two of Stop UBC Animal Research's freedom of information requests. Those requests include research protocols, photographs, and video footage. If UBC is so proud of its animal research why not fully disclose information about its programs? UBC gives the impression it does not want the public to see what researchers are doing to animals behind closed doors.

      Compassionate Few

      Sep 15, 2010 at 10:29pm

      I wonder why the university is being so secretive about their research program? They claim that they have abandoned their 30 year program of highly invasive research on cats, but I find that very difficult to believe. Given the university’s history of violent, dangerous experiments on animals, I am forced to believe that they are trying to hide something from the public. Since it is us, the public, paying for this violent research, we have every right to be made aware of where out tax dollars are being spent. If they have nothing to hide, why won’t they tell the truth?

      Stop Vivivisection Canada!

      Sep 15, 2010 at 10:42pm

      For information about vivisection at UBC, VGH, St. Paul's, Children's Hospital and other Canadian research laboratories see LIfeforce's Stop Vivisection Canada! campaign:

      Lifeforce requests to UBC for basic information, such as numbers and types of species used, have been unanswered. Over the years, Lifeforce has investigated these reasearch labs and taken photographs and video. See our Facebook site and .We challenge them to show the public how their tax money and donations are being spent on inhumane, scientifically fallacious experiments with "animal models".


      Sep 15, 2010 at 10:55pm

      Tens of thousands of people die because of prescription drugs that have been tested on animals and 'proven safe'. These 'medicines' are killers because they are TESTED ON ANIMALS.
      Animals have different physiologies than us and things that are harmful to us do not affect them and vice versa. If they had tested chocolate on dogs and found it unsafe what a different culinary world we would be living in. So why do they test on animals?

      Amanda Daniell

      Sep 16, 2010 at 7:11am

      I don't understand Mr. Hepburns comment “So research that is done at UBC has to be openly published,” “So we don’t do secret research.” This comment appears to be contrary to actions preventing the public from being able to access the research. I simply cannot understand how it could be suggested that this information has been open and forthcoming?

      In addition I am really not sure how invasive research into cat brains could be considered necessary and critical? I believe this reveals just how entrenched UBC has been in their secret research which has been conducted far away from the scrutiny of meaningful and ethical dialogue.

      What is also disturbing is Hepburns apparent lack of sensitivity towards the animals in his care and the context of this in relation to public opinion. Although mice are highly sensitive and emotional creatures, they are generally dismissed by the general public. However cats are considered a beloved family member and one would think that invasive research on these pet "kitty cats" would be a potential pitfall under public scrutiny. ...( "Thousands of UBC research projects involve animals and while invasive surgeries are “not something you would want to happen to your pet kitty-cat,” there are always solid, scientific reasons for doing the work, [Hepburn] said Read more: )

      In conclusion I do hope that Hepburn's comment " we don't do secret research" means he is now willing to engage more openly with the public on these critical dilemmas.

      Amanda Daniell

      Cheryl Jewhurst

      Sep 16, 2010 at 7:57am

      Where is UBC getting these animals from?

      Karen Haney

      Sep 16, 2010 at 8:27am

      I guess we should be happy that for now Hepburn says the testing has ended, but claiming he doesn't know if that means it will never happen again, that sounds too much like a child hoping that when the dust clears and no ohe is looking, he will do as he pleases once again.

      We are all dependent upon one another, not to be used scientifically, but to dwell here together in love. Just because we walk on two legs and have opposable thumbs does not give us the right to lord it over others. This world we share is in crisis! We are killing ourselves and don't even know it! How can we begin to believe it is our right destroy these innocent creatures in the name of science? I don't get it... what I do get is that some real personal inventory checking is in dire need.

      Maureen Hurly

      Sep 16, 2010 at 8:44am

      I am glad there is a group questioning the morality of harming animals for the supposed benefit of humanity. The really worrying thing is that all these experiments on animals take place behind closed doors. The animals are completely at the mercy of the researchers and the public has no way of knowing exactly what is being done, how much the animals are suffering and what the benefit of each experiment is. From what I have read on the subject, it seems very likely that many animals are suffering tremendously for very little, if any, benefit to anyone. Please UBC, make all your research open and public knowledge so that we can judge for ourselves. Animals should not be treated like disposable commodities!