At the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg, Germany, animals used for toxicity tests for pharmaceutical companies routinely suffered abuse and gratuitous violence. This was revealed thanks to an undercover investigation by two animal rights organisations, SOKO Tierschutz and Cruelty Free International. An activist worked at the lab for four months to gather information using a hidden camera.
The “stolen” footage, published on 11 October, contains disturbing imagery and viewer discretion is advised. Beagles – the breed of dog most commonly used for testing – can be seen lying in their own blood and excrement, and there is footage of stressed, terrified macaques locked in tiny cages, turning in circles over and over again. The video also shows lab technicians using metal spikes to constrain and catch monkeys, with operators being unjustifiably violent toward the animals in clear disregard of the laws that are in place to ensure animal suffering should be reduced to a minimum.
The video contains disturbing imagery and viewer discretion is advised.
“I knew it would be hard, but I thought somebody had to do it, to bring out the truth,” the activist who gathered the footage – an electrician – declared in an interview with France 24. “I believe it’s not right in a democracy to keep entire industries shrouded in perfect secrecy. The experience was extremely shocking. It’s like a strange, secret world. The suffering, the hundreds of bored dogs barking, the monkeys in battery cages… It’s a nightmarish prison“.
Aside from ethical concerns, the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology has been in violation of multiple laws. Animal testing is subject to certain restrictions. Cages, for example, must be of a certain size, and social animals – according to EU directives – should not be kept alone and are required to have enough space to express “a wide range of normal behaviours”. German law regarding animal welfare also states that inflicting noticeable pain to a vertebrate, which appears to have been a common practice in the lab, is punishable with up to three years in prison.
The organisations that conducted the investigations also claim that, based on testimony from the undercover activists, a monkey died in the lab and documents were tampered with to cover up the incident. This deceit could be dangerous because the death of the animal might also have been linked with a side effect of one of the drugs being tested, which would make covering up its death an especially serious offence.
Laboratory under investigation
This was not the first time that LPT – one of Germany’s largest private labs – has faced public scrutiny. It has, in fact, been the subject of nine inspections since 2015. What emerged from these was that many macaques were enclosed in too-small cages, and inspectors found that “considerable suffering” was being inflicted on the animals. The only punishment was a meagre 300-euro fine for having introduced new dogs into the lab without the proper permits. This time, however, LPT is under investigation, and risks much higher sanctions.
Cruelty Free International stated that the animals’ living conditions “clearly violate the EU’s minimum standards for animal welfare”. They have requested that the structure be closed down. “We ask the German government to act immediately to close the Laboratory and put and end to these cruel and obsolete poison tests”, said a spokesperson for German NGO SOKO Tierschutz.
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