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Victoria's Animal Experiments Skyrocket
By Jacqueline Freegard
MORE than 2.7 million animals were used for scientific experiments in Victoria in a single year, new figures reveal.
Testing on animals rose dramatically in 2004, the most recent data shows.
Experiments included "burning or scalding" 66 sheep and "interference of the central nervous system" of 6500 animals including 15 cats, five pigs and nine rabbits.
Some 2.1 million chickens were used in a project to test a vaccine for Newcastle disease, which poses a significant risk to the poultry industry.
In 2004, almost 400,000 animals died or had to be put down after tests, including 18 koalas, 37 possums and gliders, 75 cats, 254 dogs and 33 horses.
Monkeys, guineapigs, birds and rabbits were also killed as part of scientific experiments.
Genetic engineering tests were also carried out on almost 40,000 animals.
Animals were injected with disease and infection, electrocuted and exposed to radiation and toxins.
RSPCA president Hugh Wirth described animal testing as "barbaric" and said the RSPCA opposed the use of live animals for scientific experiments.
"The only experiments we condone are those that are absolutely essential, and that there is no possibility of conducting the experiment without live animals, and that the experiment has been properly assessed and evaluated by an ethics committee," Dr Wirth said.
He said Victoria had the highest number of institutions that used animals for scientific testing.
In 2003, 488,808 animals were used for scientific experiments in Victoria.
Even without the 2.1 million chickens, the number of animals used in tests in 2004 blew out to 603,043.
More than 100 primates, including baboons, macaques and marmosets, were used in experiments in 2004. The average is 68.
There were 97 institutions which carried out animal tests in Victoria in 2004, including universities and hospitals.
The names of institutions that conduct animal testing have never been made public and can not be obtained under Freedom of Information.
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries, Jeremi Moule, said each year the department audited a third of such organisations, and it was a serious offence to conduct unapproved tests.
"Every project must be approved by each organisation's animal ethics committee, which is made up of a vet, researcher or teacher, an animal welfare representative and an independent person," Mr Moule said.
But Dr Wirth said since the law was passed in 1986 not one organisation has been prosecuted for animal cruelty.
Animal Liberation Victoria spokesman Paul Crossley said ALV did not support animal testing under any circumstances.
"I'm concerned there are major scientific flaws with using animals for tests for drugs that will be used on humans," Mr Crossley said.
"We would be interested to know who's conducting what."
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