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Animal Justice Files Animal Cruelty Complaint Over University of Calgary Research Lab

Animal Justice August 7, 2018

CALGARY – National animal law non-profit Animal Justice has filed a complaint with the Calgary Humane Society over shocking animal cruelty alleged to have occurred at a University of Calgary psychology research laboratory.

According to a news report, multiple former students have come forward to blow the whistle on disturbing experiments conducted in an addiction research laboratory supervised by assistant professor Devran Lovic. The whistleblowers allege that rats were improperly anesthetized, causing multiple rats to wake up during surgery. On at least one occasion, researchers allegedly continued to perform surgery on a conscious rat, restraining the distressed animal with a surgical pad while his back and neck were cut open.

Lovic has been on leave since December 2017, and the University apparently shut down his laboratory in March.

“Slicing open live, conscious rats is a clear violation of both federal and provincial animal cruelty laws, and that’s why authorities must investigate the University of Calgary and prosecute this shocking mistreatment,” said animal rights lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “It is illegal to perform surgery on an animal without appropriately administering anesthesia, and researchers have a legal obligation to ensure rats spared discomfort during the entire surgical period. It’s heartbreaking to think of the horrific trauma these rats would have endured when they regained consciousness during painful, invasive surgery.”

Animal Justice is also criticizing the University of Calgary’s response to the troubling allegations, and is calling on the University to come clean and release publicly any documents associated with the experiments in question.

Federally, Canada has the weakest laws in the western world for protecting animals used in research. Unlike in other countries, here are no federal laws, no inspectors, no public inspection reports, and no way for the public to effectively oversee the secretive activities of animal researchers. Instead, there are only voluntary guidelines created and overseen by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), a non-profit with no legal authority. The CCAC can recommend that the federal granting agencies withdraw research funding from a non-compliant institution. There is no evidence that this has ever occurred or that funding has ever been withheld.

However, Alberta’s provincial Animal Protection Act makes it mandatory for researchers to comply with CCAC guidelines. The CCAC’s Guide to the Care and Use of Experimental Animals states that appropriate anesthesia, proper instrumentation and competent pre- and post-operative care are all essential to the welfare of the experimental animal. It requires that all surgical procedures are to be carried out under anesthesia; that those doing surgery have an obligation to be aware of the efficiency of the anesthetic technique being used; and that it is the responsibility of the surgeon and anesthetist to ensure that this animal is spared discomfort during the entire peri-operative period. Failing to comply with these measures is illegal.

Animal Justice is also calling on the CCAC to recommend that funding be withheld from the institution for failing to comply with CCAC guidelines.


The Canadian Council on Animal Care Guide to the Care and Use of Experimental Animals can be found here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director

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University of Windsor Launches New Centre to Develop Animal Testing Alternatives

Animal Justice July 6, 2017

The University of Windsor is opening a cutting edge new research institution: the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM). The first of its kind in Canada, and the CCAAM aims to expose the ineffectiveness of animal testing models, and develop compassionate, animal-free research methods.

CCAAM executive director Dr. Charu Chandrasekera is a biochemist and molecular biologist with 17 years of experience in the field. After years of conducting cardiovascular disease and diabetes research on rodents, she saw first-hand that results in animal models simply don’t translate when it comes to humans.

As Dr. Chandrasekara told the Windsor Star, “Yes, we’ve used animals for decades — It’s not working. When you have 95 per cent failure to translate from animal models to human clinical trials, there’s something wrong with the paradigm.”

According to Dr. Neal Barnard, the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, about half of drugs approved for consumption are either recalled or relabelled due to side effects. These adverse human reactions are not identified in animal research.

The revolutionary animal-free technology in the CCAAM will include computer models that analyze human cells and tissues, and organoid modeling—creating in vitro three-dimensional human organs with stem cells.

Many other countries are already moving away from animal research, but Canada is falling behind. In 2015, more than 3,570,352 animal victims—mostly mice and fishes—were subjected to cruel laboratory experiments, according to the Canadian Council of Animal Care (CCAC). (Privately-funded facilities aren’t required to report, so the total number is likely significantly higher.)

Animal research is notoriously difficult for the public to monitor due to inadequate regulation and lack of publicly available information. Yet in March of this year, Canadians got a glimpse of the gruesome truth when CTV’s W5 aired a Last Chance For Animals investigation into shocking cruelty to dogs, pigs, and monkeys at Montreal lab. The hidden camera footage showed animals being aggressively restrained, thrown into cages, and slammed onto steel operating tables. Some technicians swung dogs by catheters, which ran down their spines and into their abdomens. Painful procedures were performed on animals in plain sight of other research victims, causing additional psychological distress.

The CCAAM is set to begin work in October and will offer degree programs for research with animal-alternatives. It’s encouraging that major technological advancements in animal-free alternatives are becoming mainstream and will help replace cruel and outdated animal experimentation.

There is also legislative action designed to rescue animals from lab experiments—Senate Bill S-214 would ban animal testing for cosmetic products, something the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Norway have already done.

Until cruel animal experiments are outlawed, make sure to research and avoid companies that test on animals. A new tool can also help you avoid supporting health charities that fund animal experiments—check out www.HumaneCharities.ca.















Animal Justice

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