Malaysia probes British-funded animal testing lab

Posted on June 13, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(AFP) – KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is considering shutting down a controversial British-funded animal testing lab if there is evidence of cruelty there, the goverment’s top veterinary official said on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners have accused the Progenix Research lab, which uses monkeys, dogs, rodents and rabbits for toxicology testing, of poisoning the animals to death.

Veterinary Services director Abdul Aziz Jamaludin said the company will be ordered to shut down if his department finds animals were subject to abuse, the Sunday Star newspaper reported.

“If animal testing cannot be conducted in the United States or Europe, I see no reason why they should be allowed here,” Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying.

Abdul Aziz said animal welfare laws in Malaysia — which is bidding to become a major biotech hub in Southeast Asia — were not as stringent as those in developed nations.

But he said there were laws to prosecute those who treated animals badly, and added that research companies should use tissue culture rather than animals to conduct tests for drugs and cosmetics.

“I have got a report (on the animal laboratory) I will act on it tomorrow when I return,” he told AFP from Beijing.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), condemned the facility, which is based in the northern state of Penang and run by the Britain-based Alpha Biologics.

“We are extremely concerned that a UK company has an animal laboratory in Malaysia,” said Sarah Kite, its director of special projects.

“These animals are being cruelly used for toxicity testing in a country where there is no legislation governing their welfare,” she said in a statement. “Animals are quite literally poisoned to death.”

Company officials could not be reached for comment, but the Progenix website said it was committed to the “ethical use of animals in research only when there is no suitable non-animal alternative.”

P. Ramasamy, Penang state’s deputy chief minister, told AFP that the local government opposes animal abuse, adding: “If there is any evidence of cruelty, we will enforce the laws.”

Last month a local Malaysian leader drew criticism from campaigners for saying that God had created animals to be used by man, amid controversy over an Indian drug company’s plans to build an animal testing facility in the country.

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