Animal advocates: Stop tracking brain waves in awake cats
animal-rights groups call on the Health Ministry to halt a medical experiment
that involves forcing cats to remain awake in order to monitor their brain
animal-rights groups have joined forces to demand that the Health Ministry
halt a medical experiment that involves forcing cats to remain awake in
order to monitor their brain function. The organizations said the cats in
the study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are confined in small enclosures
and force-fed food containing substances to keep them awake during testing.
in Israel into feline brain function is generally conducted while the cats
are anesthetized. They are often killed when the experiments are completed.
study in question, led by Dr. Opher Donchin of the university's Department
of Biomedical Engineering, investigates neural activity in Purkinje cells
in the animals' cerebellar cortex. Researchers ultimately plan to study
at least seven cats.
month Rachel Adam, a representative for animal-rights groups on the ministry's
National Council for Experimentation on Animal Subjects, asked council chairman
Ehud Ziv to look into complaints that the cats were subjected to unnecessary
discomfort during testing. A veterinarian and a scientific consultant who
were sent by Ziv to Donchin's laboratory wrote in their report that the
experiment complied with the ministry's animal-testing regulations.
response, animal-rights activists asked Ziv for permission to visit the
lab and see the tests on the cats for themselves. When their request was
rejected, they decided to take up the matter with the university directly.
week the organizations sent a letter to Ziv and to university president
Prof. Rivka Carmi demanding an immediate halt to the study. "This research
is being conducted on conscious felines, subjecting them to prolonged, extreme
suffering," the groups' attorney, Sagi Agmon, said. He said the experiment
does not comply with the 1994 Animal Welfare Law.
letter said the suffering caused to the cats far outweighed the study's
potential "negligible scientific benefit" and that nothing could
justify subjecting such sentient beings to prolonged, harmful tests, confinement
and surgery for the purpose of dubious scientific gain. The activists said
they are considering legal action against the study's organizers.
director of the animal-rights group Behind Closed Doors, Anat Refua, said
yesterday, "A cat can't be expected to sit in confinement for over
an hour without moving. It breaks the animal physically and emotionally,
leading to a state of powerlessness. In such a state the cat is likely to
fall asleep, and inserting food into its mouth to keep it awake is both
cruel and disproportionate. We ask for proportionality to be considered
before approving any experiment in Israel, as required by law."
In response, Ziv said: "After the report was submitted, it was made
clear that the council's representatives from nonprofit groups are invited
to visit the lab and form their own impressions. They have yet to give us
a date that suits them."
said the conditions of the experiment were in compliance with its permit
and that the cats exhibited no signs of suffering. "On the contrary,"
Ziv said, "they were in appropriate physical and behavioral condition,
showed sociability and curiosity, and their interaction demonstrated their
trust in the laboratory staff."
University said in a statement that while "Society grants scientists
the authority to use animals for research and teaching purposes, in the
recognition that animal research seeks to advance the saving of human life,"
the world and the university are increasingly using substitutes whenever
possible to prevent unnecessary suffering to lab animals.
its response the university rejected the activists' accusations and noted
that the veterinarian and scientific consultant who viewed the testing determined
unequivocally that it met all legal all council requirements. "This
is highly important research with potential long-term value for the treatment
of disorders of the cerebellum like autism, dyslexia and stroke. Donchin
and his staff should receive all possible praise, not complaints,"
the statement said.