A LEADING Scottish university has been condemned by animal rights advocates after it emerged it bought dozens of dead animals from a US company for dissection without knowing why they were euthanised.
The University of Edinburgh said it purchased the bodies of 35 dogs from the US firm to be dissected by veterinary students, despite not knowing where the animals came from, or the reasons for them being put to sleep.
Campaigners, who point out that some firms profit from the “abhorrent practice” of deliberately killing dogs for dissection, criticised the university for its “unacceptable” standards, and said it should have sought clarification about the dogs’ fate.
The purchase of the 35 dogs from Carolina Biological Supply by the university’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies came to light following a Freedom of Information request.
Asked how many of the dogs it used in dissections came from veterinary practices following death through natural causes, or because they were euthanised due to disease, the university stressed that not all of it dogs came from the one source.
Val White, campus operating officer at the vet school, said: “In 2010 we purchased 35 dogs from an American company. The remaining dogs came from a dog and cat home.” Asked if any of the dogs used were euthanised for the purposes of dissection, she added: “To our knowledge, none have been euthanised for the purposes of dissection. However, we are unable to verify those supplied from the American supplier which [is] why this supply was discontinued.” The North Carolina firm has been the focus of protests by animal activists for years. It was prosecuted by the US Department for Agriculture in the early 1990s and charged with violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including embalming live cats.
In a court case, undercover footage filmed by campaigners appeared to show the animals twitching, turning their heads, and clenching their paws. The firm was cleared after a judge ruled the footage did not depict all relevant parts of the process and were of poor quality.
The dogs bought by the university were used to teach veterinary students in anatomy classes. The university says that from 2011, there was a policy change, where only dogs from “verifiable sources in the UK” were used.
Under schedule two of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, animals including dogs can only be obtained from designated breeding or supplying establishments. However, the act only applies to living animals.
Nevertheless, Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, strongly criticised the way the university had acquired the remains of the animals.
She said: “The fact that the university is unable to confirm the origin of the dead dogs it purchased from the US company is unacceptable. We would be alarmed if the company in question was deliberately killing dogs for dissection or training purposes. This is an abhorrent practice. The university should have verified from the company how and why the animals they obtained were killed.”
A university spokeswoman said: “We are supplied with dogs that died of natural causes or have been humanely euthanised because of, for instance, ill health.”