Animal rights activists in the U.K. have been gaining steady traction in their campaign to stop the transportation of mice, rats and rabbits into the country for R&D purposes. With British airlines already bowing to public pressure, the activists are now persuading ferry companies to follow suit--closing one of the last lines of delivery for many of the labs in the country.
According to the Daily Mail, only foreign airlines are still in the business of transporting animals for drug research in the U.K. And they may be next in line to feel the heat of mass letter-writing campaigns mounted by the animal rights groups. Their successful efforts have spurred a broad array of research organizations to counterattack with a public campaign of their own noting the threat to the country's large research industry.
"Although small in number, animals such as mice contribute significantly to the development of new medicines to combat human and animal diseases," former science minister Lord Drayson tells the Daily Mail. "If companies continue to withdraw from transporting these animals, the search for cures will shift to other countries, some of which do not have welfare regulations as stringent as those we rightly insist upon in the U.K. Medical research will wither in our universities, and as a result, more people will suffer and die."
Special lines of rodents are bred for specific disease models, helping investigators advance new treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's and diabetes. And they won't be easily replaced if the U.K has to turn solely to internal sources.
"It takes a long time to breed these animals, and if their transport is stopped then researchers will have to recreate them, requiring the unnecessary use of many more animals over successive generations," said a consortium of research groups in a joint communiqué.