They Should Rename It The Vivisection Mis-Information Network

The UK’s Vivisection Information Network recently issued a press release making a number of claims about botulinum, which is used to treat cerebral palsy in addition to its more famous role as the anti-wrinkle treatment Botox.

Each batch of botulinum is of different toxicity, so in order to ensure safety the potency of each batch is measured using the LD50 test, in which mice are given samples for the batch until a dose is reached that kills 50 percent of the animals.

The Vivisection Information Network claims that the test is unnecessary because a non-animal alternative is just as good. According to its press release,

A non-animal alternative testing method exists and is in use at a government appointed laboratory for the testing of Botox (Botulinum) (The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control). This test is called the SNAP-25.

. . .

[The press release urges people to call write letters to government officials and] Ask why the SNAP-25 is good enough for a Government appointed lab but not good enough for the pharmaceutical industry.

Fortunately, another UK animal rights groups, Animal Aid, has already provided the answer — the SNAP-25 test has not yet been validated to replace the safety tests that the LD50 test is currently used for.

As Animal Aid’s Andre Menache noted in the abstract for a lecture he gave in July,

The European Pharmacopoeia has set the regulatory framework for non-animal testing of botulinum toxin type A for injection (No. 2113; 5th edition EP). A non-animal immunoassay — the SNAP-25 endopeptidase assay – has shown excellent results with respect to the estimation of the potency of type A toxin in therapeutic preparations (ATLA 31, 381-391, 2003). Similarly, two rapid, non-animal assays have also been developed for botulinum toxin type B.

The only remaining obstacle to regulatory approval of these non-animal methods would appear to be the validation process. There is a moral imperative to give priority to the validation process with respect to these particular non-animal methods in view of the fact that this test requires over 80,000 mice in the UK alone every year.

Menache is referring to a January 2005 European Pharmacopoeia monograph that said,

After validation with respect to the LD 50 assay (reference method), the product may also be assayed by other methods that are preferable in terms of animal welfare, including 1 of the following: 1. endopeptidase assay in vitro; 2. ex vivo assay using the mouse phrenic nerve diaphragm; 3. mouse bioassay using paralysis as the end-point.

So why isn’t the SNAP-25 test used today? Because it hasn’t been validated yet. Companies making Botulinum couldn’t use the SNAP-25 test even if they wanted to, until it is validated. End of story.


Don’t stand for Wickham lies. Press Release, Vivisection Information Network, December 11, 2005.

Botulinum testing — time to kill the LD. Andrew Menache, Animal Aid, July 2005.

LD50 Timeline. Humane Society of the United States, Accessed: December 12, 2005.

Animal Rights Extremists Release Animals, Set Fires at Hunt Kennels in UK

In the early morning hours of November 20, animal rights extremists broke into the kennels at the Essex and Suffolk hunt, releasing dozens of animals and setting a couple of fires.

When police arrived shortly after 1 a.m., they found 82 dogs and 5 horses and been released, and the gates to the kennel, which opens into the road, left wide open. Additionally, the extremists set a couple of fires and spray painted “hunt scum” on the road.

Gary Thorpe, huntsman for the Essex and Suffolk hunt, told the East Anglian Times,

We are appalled. They let all the hounds and horses out of their stables and left the gates wide open so they could get on the road. Thankfully this did not happen, but that was more by luck than anything else or they could have caused a serious accident. These people call themselves animal lovers, but what kind of animal lover does this. We are hunting completely within the law and they still persist in coming out and disrupting what we are doing. It is very worrying when they are prepared to set fire to something and release your animals in the middle of the night.

A spokesman from the UK’s Hunt Saboteurs Association said that no one from that organization was involved in the action,

I can say categorically no member of the HSA would take any action that would endanger the life of hunting hounds and horses. We care for their welfare.

There’s no evidence that anyone from the HSA was involved, but unless the HSA actually knows the identity of the attacker, this categorical denial is a bit silly (hint, next time just say your organization does not condone such irresponsible actions and leave it at that).


Saboteurs blamed for hunt attack. The BBC, November 20, 2005.

Fury as hunt kennels attacked. Helen Skene, East Anglian Daily Times, November 21, 2005.

Arson attack on hunt kennels. Anna Tyzack, Horse and Hound, November 21, 2005.

ALF Sends Threatening Letters to Dozens of British Construction and Decorating Firms

In October, police in Great Britain reported that Animal Liberation Front extremists mailed anonymous letters to dozens of construction and decorating companies warning them of dire consequences if they participated in Oxford University’s planned construction of a new research facility.

The letter warned companies that they would participate in the construction and design of the building “at your own peril.”

Animal Liberation Front spokesman Robin Webb approved of the letters, telling The Telegraph,

If they are supplying Oxford University in any way and through that helping the progress of the proposed facility then they can be considered a target.

Police had a different view. A police spokesman told The Press Association,

It is believed the letters are part of a campaign by animal rights extremists who are trying to prevent work by Oxford University to build new laboratories. Although everyone is entitled to an opinion about this very emotive issue, it is just not acceptable to act in a way which intimidates other people and threatens their livelihood.


Animal rights group threatens builders over new Oxford labs. Rosie Murray-West, Telegraph, October 12, 2005.

Threats posted to Oxford lab contractors. Press Association, October 11, 2005.

Animal Liberation Front Claims Responsibility for Attack on Home of GlaxoSmithKline Executive

In October, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for Sept. 7 attack on the UK home of GlaxoSmithKline executive Paul Blackburn.

In an e-mail posted on animal rights extremists sites, the ALF claimed,

On the night of Weds 7th Sept we Brigade G of the Animal Liberation Front detonated a bomb on the doorstep of GlaxoSmithKline director Paul Blakburn, Beaconsfield, Bucks.

This contained 2 litres of fuel and 4 pounds of explosives. We did this because GSK is a customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences and GSK we realise that this may not be enough to make you stop using HLS, but GSK this is just the beginning.

We have identified and tracked down many of your senior executives and also junior staff, as well as those from other HLS customers.

Drop HLS or you will face the consequences. For all the animals inside HLS, we will be back.

Members of Blackburn’s family were in the home when the extremists ignited the incendiary device — so much for all that nonsense about ALF taking extreme care not to risk human lives.

The ALF also claimed responsibility for a September 23 attempted arson at a sports facility in Oxford.


Firebomb in Beaconsfield. Bucks Free Press, October 4, 2005.

Man Becomes First In UK Charged Under Laws Targeting Animal Rights Extremists

In October, Mark Taylor, 38, became the first person charged in the United Kingdom under new laws there designed to crack down on animal rights extremism.

Taylor was charged under a provision of the Serious and Organized Crime and Police Act of 2005 that targets those who interfere with contractual relationships so as to harm an animal research organization — i.e. harassing employees and companies who do business with animal research firms.

Taylor was charged with three such counts of interference with contractual relationships so as to harm an animal research organization, two counts of aggravated trespass, and one count of assault.

He was arrested back on July 16, 2005 after a protest at a company that is a supplier to Huntingdon Life Sciences.


Charge under animal research law. The BBC, October 5, 2005.

More Than 500 UK Researchers Sign Research Defence Society Statement In Support of Animal Research

In August, the Research Defence Society announced that more than 500 British researchers had signed its Declaration on Animals in Medical Research, including three Nobel laureates and 190 Fellows of the Royal Society.

The Declaration highlights the important contributions made by animal research to benefit humanity and underscores the importance of further research. Fifteen years ago, a similar declaration was circulated by the Research Defence Society which ultimately garnered 1,000 signatures including six Nobel laureates.

Simon Festing, executive director of the Research Defence Society, said in a press release that,

We are delighted to have gathered over 500 signatures from top UK academic scientists and doctors in less than one month. It shows the strength and depth of support for humane animal research in this country. Abolitionist groups often claim that their position has scientific or medical support, but itÂ’s no surprise that they cannot back this up.

Cancer researcher Nick Wright, dean of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry explained why he signed the Declaration,

I have signed this Declaration because I recognise the enormous contribution made to modern health care and public health by animals in medical research. As the pace of discovery quickens, it becomes even more important if we are to maintain this momentum. This is why I believe that we should all publicly acknowledge our debt to animal experimentation.

The full text of the Declaration reads,

Declaration on Animals in Medical Research

Throughout the world people enjoy a better quality of life because of advances made
possible through medical research, and the development of new medicines and other
treatments. A small but vital part of that work involves the use of animals.

In 1990, top scientists and physicians from the UK, as well as Nobel Laureates,
signed a Declaration that stated, among other things:

“Experiments on animals have made an important contribution to advances in medicine and surgery,
which have brought major improvements in the health of human beings and animals.”

Fifteen years later

We reaffirm our support for the 1990 Declaration, and for the statement from the House of Lords Select Committee
on Animals in Scientific Procedures (2002) that: “there is a continued need for animal experimentation both in applied
research and in research aimed purely at extending knowledge”
and for the statement from the Royal Society report
The Use of Non-Human Animals in Research (2004) that: “humans have benefited immensely from scientific research involving
animals, with virtually every medical achievement in the past century reliant on the use of animals in some way”.

Animal welfare

We acknowledge and respect the sentience of animals. Until we no longer require animals in research, animal
welfare is of paramount importance. We aim to gain the benefits from animal research with minimal suffering
and distress. It is crucial to promote best practice and maintain a culture of care in research establishments.
Every effort must be made to: replace the use of live animals by alternative techniques; reduce the number of
animals used to the minimum required for meaningful results; and refine the procedures and improve housing
to ensure the well-being of the animals.


The UK is widely acknowledged to have the most rigorous controls on animal research in the world. Both
institutions and individuals must adhere to legislation governing the use of animals in research.


We wish to see an open and responsible debate about the use of animals for all purposes. This can be difficult
in the face of animal rights extremism. We encourage institutions to provide clear information about animal
research, and foster rational discussion about the ethical, medical and scientific issues.


All use of animals by society should be considered in an ethical context. Proposals to use animals in science must
be critically evaluated and justified. The validity, usefulness and relevance of the research need to be demonstrated
in every case. Research using animals should be subject to cost / benefit assessment and ethical review.

Signed (as individual)


Animal testing backed by 500 UK scientists. Reuters, August 25, 2005.

15 years on: top scientists and doctors back animal research. Press Release, Research Defence Society, August 24, 2005.