A recent BUAV undercover investigation at the University of Cambridge reveals the use of sheep for research into neurological disorders, including Batten’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
The sheep are imported from New Zealand to be used in research. This would be a long and stressful journey for them. During the investigation, one sheep was reported to have been euthanased at the airport in the UK because she kept banging her head during the journey.
The sheep have a condition that mimics only some of the abnormalities seen in people with Batten’s disease. The animals suffered greatly, in particular experiencing eyesight loss and disorientation. As their condition worsened they struggled to walk in a straight line and would bang their heads into stationary objects. They experienced weight loss and strange head movements. One sheep called Janet suffered severe weight loss and became virtually blind. She was eventually killed because of her suffering but was inexplicably left for several days in a pitiful state, even though it was acknowledged she would have to be killed.
Some sheep had invasive implants inserted into their brains. The implant caused a large head wound, which if the sheep knocked their heads could worsen. Packs connected to the implant recorded brain activity for 24 hours.
The sheep were kept in this facility undergoing behavioural tests and monitored as their condition deteriorated until they died or were killed.
Among the incidents which took place:
Batten’s disease is a rare genetic disease. The main genetic mutation causing Batten’s disease in humans is not found in sheep and the animals suffer from a condition that mimics only some of the abnormalities seen in people with Batten’s disease. There are also critically important distinctions including the pathological changes found in sheep which are different to the corresponding disease in humans. There are also structural differences between the human and sheep form of the disease. In humans, there are abnormalities in the brainstem and hypothalamus at the end-stage of the disease, which is not seen in the sheep.
One of the researchers has previously been caught carrying out experiments on mice without a Home Office licence. This had involved very loud music being played to over 200 mice dosed with metamphetamine (speed). Some of the mice suffered seizures and at least 19 of them died as a result of the experiment.
The BUAV believes that not only is the deliberate infliction of such suffering on these sheep unacceptable, but because of the important distinctions between the condition found in sheep and the abnormalities seen in people with batten's disease, any subsequent results cannot be safely and reliably extrapolated to humans. Indeed, the principal purpose of the research appears to be for Huntington’s disease, a very different condition. Extrapolation will therefore be even more difficult.
Please write polite letters to Home Office Minister Norman Baker urging him to terminate the project licence for this sheep research at Cambridge University
Home Office Minister Norman Baker
The Home Office
2 Marsham Street
Write polite letters/emails to Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor and raise your concerns about the use of sheep in research at the University: