Italian activists create mayhem at an animal testing lab

Illustration for article titled Italian activists create mayhem at an animal testing lab

A lab at the University of Milan was raided by animal rights activists this past weekend, taking nearly 100 mutated mice (and one rabbit) with them and mixing up cage labels to confuse researchers. It could take years for the facility to recover.


As Nature News reports, no arrests were made after the 12-hour standoff, but the University of Milan is planning to press charges against the group responsible, Stop Green Hill (the name is a reference to an Italian dog-breeding facility the activists are opposed to).

The Milan facility is used to experiment on genetically altered animals for research into autism, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders.

During the raid, and as hundreds of animal-rights sympathizers demonstrated outside, five individuals made their way into the facility, likely with an illegally acquired electronic card.

Alison Abbott tells us more:

They pried open the reinforced doors of the facility on the fourth floor, and two of them chained themselves by the neck to the main double doors such that any attempt to open the doors could have endangered their lives.

They posted pictures of themselves on their organisation’s website, where they also declared that they would stay for as long as it took to get agreement to leave with all the animals. The facility hosts around 800 animals, mostly genetically modified mice but also some rabbits, according to Martino Bolognesi, a structural biologist at the university. The activists had brought supplies of food and sleeping bags.

Illustration for article titled Italian activists create mayhem at an animal testing lab

Here's the video taken by Stop Green Hill:

And what the demonstration outside the facility looked like:

Some of the mice that were taken are “delicate mutants” and immunosuppressed “nude” mice that will most assuredly die outside of the lab’s controlled environment. Moreover, because many of these animals are models for psychiatric conditions, they may also be suffering from undue psychological stress (though a case could also be made for the opposite).


Stop Green Hill issued an official statement to explain its actions (translation by Google):

With this unprecedented action we want to document the conditions in which animals live and experiments that are conducted, showing them to the whole society with photographs and films; give visibility to the problem of vivisection and the places where it is practiced, thus giving a name also those who practice it, to start a peaceful siege inside and in front of the laboratory with the request that the animals are released and that the Ministry and the Palaces put an end to the false promises and truly start to take steps towards the abolition of animal testing.

Illustration for article titled Italian activists create mayhem at an animal testing lab

The researchers say that "vivisection" is not practiced at the facility, but that they're conducting "basic research aimed at discovery of therapies for diseases that are incurable and severely disabling that plague our society."


Here’s how the Italian Researchers responded (translation by Google):

The damage done is difficult to quantify, but it’s in the order of hundreds of thousands of goes far beyond the loss of animals illegally removed...they took the cards to all the cages, making it no longer possible to identify the animals thus sending in smoke the work of years of scientific research and its funding...[our] research focuses largely on diseases of the nervous system, for which there is a desperate need of care, which is currently not available: autism, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Prader-Willi syndrome, nicotine addiction, and our research is funded by national and international bodies including Telethon, AIRC, NIDA, Cariplo Foundation, Fondazione Mariani, Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, European Community, the Ministry of Research, Ministry of Health, Region Lombardy. The loans are obtained through rigorous evaluation processes and results are published in top international journals in the field.

The incident on Saturday creates a precedent of unprecedented severity. Animal rights activists have claimed the right to block the research approved by the competent offices of the Ministry of Research, conducted in accordance with all national and international standards on the treatment of experimental animals, financed by public authorities but also by non-profit foundations, the latter supported by donations of generous citizens interested in public health. The enclosures of the Department of medical biotechnology and translational medicine meet all the requirements of the applicable European legislation, and animals (mice, rats and rabbits, bred for the sole purposes of research and unable to survive in the environment different from that of the laboratory) are maintained with the utmost care.

It’s true that animal testing represents a delicate ethical problem; public awareness about this problem has led to the adoption in recent years of the legislation regulating the use of animals in research, resulting in a huge improvement of housing conditions and with the elimination of unnecessary suffering which they may be subjected. However, it is equally undeniable that the great advances in medicine and the development of therapeutics, has only been possible through the use of laboratory animals, you will need to use also desirable for future developments.


The researchers say it could take up to one year for a team of three scientists to build up the colonies of mouse models of different psychiatric diseases.


Oh, for fuck's sake

1) Many of these animal cannot survive in the wild (or domestic care in untrained hands) and require very specialized care and drug regimens to survive.

2) No one in modern science does vivisection any more, all procedures must be done under anesthesia (cannulating a mouse artery is hard enough when it is unconscious, try doing it when the mouse's conscious and twitching).

3) Depending on what labs you broke into, the animals may be carrying dangerous pathogens. When the zombie apocalypse begins, I know who's to blame.

4) Less than 1% of 1% of animals killed by humans are killed in research. If you want to protest, go protest the meat industry. Every year more mice are killed by crop harvesters in the state of Iowa than all the science labs on Earth combined.

5) In fact, lab animals are better treated than pretty much all "working" animals. and the amount of regulation and ethics oversight is staggering.

6) Even now, scientists try minimize the amount of work in animals and replace experimentation in higher animals with equivalent experiments in lower species, as they are difficult, expensive and the legal hurdles required for a permit is pretty stringent. All animal experimentation today is governed by the the reduce, refine, replace principle (R3P), designed to minimize suffering

7) Public support of well regulated animal experimentation is high (60-80% for).

8) the number of animals used in experiments has steadily decreased over the years (we are only using 70% of animals compared to 30 years ago). Now, only 0.5% of lab animals are primates

And most importantly:

9) If you want to make use of any medicine, cosmetic, household chemical, or medical procedure invented after the year 1850s, then I'm sorry, you are a massive hypocrite, as all of them have been tested on animals.

I shall end with the words of Dr Thomas Starzl, on perfecting the technique for liver transplantation:

"Of my first 15 subjects, 13 of them died. I learned a lot from that. Of my second 15 subjects, only 6 died, and I learned even more. In the third group of subjects, only one died. In the fourth group, none died."

"The first three groups were animals, the last group was children."