Undercover footage raises concerns about animal cruelty at Cambridge University

Image credit: Kate Webster, the mistreatment of sheep in the UK has raised concerns among animal rights activists for some time

Cambridge University staff have been accused of mistreating sheep in animal testing labs following the release of undercover footage surfaced this week.

The sheep were used as part of a study on neurological disorders and undercover footage has been taken showing them “in distress and suffering”. The report stated that the sheep are given brain implants and undergo behavioural tests. They are then monitored as their conditions deteriorate.

The undercover investigation was conducted by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). BUAV suggested that the sheep were left disorientated and would lose their sight before dying or being put down. The university is now investigating claims that the sheep have been mistreated.

One incident that has allegedly been caught on camera includes a sheep breaking its leg during a weigh in as a result of a staff member’s impatience. The sheep apparently had to be put down following the incident.

Dr Katy Taylor, the BUAV’s head of science, stated: “It is clear from our investigation that these poor animals suffered a great deal and, we believe, unnecessarily.

“This shows why undercover investigations are essential to reveal the extent of cruelty and suffering animals endure in UK research laboratories, often for trivial purposes or highly speculative science.”

Dr Taylor also questioned how useful the experiments were, adding: “There are serious questions about whether the research has any realistic prospect of advancing the search for cures for these diseases and about the way in which the Home Office has applied the harm/benefit test required under UK legislation before allowing such research to go ahead.”

Cambridge University responded with a statement suggesting sheep were used in the study as they have ‘complex brains’ and there was no viable alternative for the experiments.

The statement continued: “The researchers have been testing a sheep model of Huntington’s Disease developed by collaborators in New Zealand and Australia and studying a line of sheep that carries a natural mutation for Batten’s Disease.

“Whilst every attempt is made to keep distress to a minimum, the very nature of these diseases means that the animals will show symptoms related to damage of the nervous system similar to those seen in humans.

“We take the allegations of mistreatment of animals very seriously and will take all appropriate actions necessary to investigate this matter in accordance with the university’s responsibilities under our Home Office licence and our own Animal Welfare Ethical Review Committee.”

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