Researcher recounts horror tales at AIIMS animal lab

October 7th, 2008 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) Nothing is done the way it should be in the Central Animal Facility in AIIMS, says a researcher who spent days there with the aim of learning animal care at the premier institute. Officials at the facility, however, deny the charge.The researcher, who did not wish to be named for fear of her career being jeopardized, yet wanted the “truth” out, recounted with horror the pitiable condition of the animals, which includes monkeys, sheep, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits, in the facility at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“I had gone to the facility at AIIMS thinking that I would get a hands on training from experts in the country’s premier institute. However, in less than a month that I was there, I realized how wrong I was. Animals were confined, their medical problems were unnoticed, the staff was untrained… rules were simply flouted there,” Aarti Seth (name changed) told IANS in an interview.

Obviously an animal lover, Seth, who had video-recorded conversations with the facility’s staff and captured the surroundings where the animals are kept as well as their behaviour in order to support her statements, said that the facility was blatantly flouting the guidelines set by the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA). Copies of the video recording and the photographs she took are with IANS.

“The CPCSEA guidelines clearly states that animals for testing should not be kept for more than three years. But as admitted by the officials on tape, most of the animals like monkeys have been there for more than a decade.

“For instance, one of the staff members told me that there was this monkey who was over 20 years old. She was brought from Lucknow and has been there since she was two or three,” Seth said.

A senior official at the facility denied this.

Pardeep Yadav, senior veterinary officer of the facility, told IANS: “Generally animals, after the testing period of three years, are sent to the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre. The time period is however dependent on various factors.

“The animals are all well cared for and healthy,” Yadav said.

Seth said: “Besides five male monkeys who have been kept for a contraceptive experiment, the other monkeys, whose numbers go upto 68 and more, are simply languishing there.”

She also pointed out that most animals, like rats, guinea pigs and even a monkey, showed abnormal behaviour of constantly running around in circles.

“When I asked the senior veterinary officer about this, he said that it was because the animals had a nervous breakdown. The solitary confinement for years, stress, boredom and frustration lead to that,” she said.

During the days she spent there, Seth did not see the vet go through the facility even once. She said not only were the animals not well-cared for, with guinea pigs and rabbits suffering from a skin disease lying unattended, but also the staff were not trained.

“To a question that I asked - how long is a baby monkey kept with its mother - I got different answers from the caretakers. One said two months and the other said two years! The only uniform answer that I got was that they were not trained for the job,” she said.

The animals suffered due to unhygienic food and water receptacles, rough handling, broken cages and incorrect temperature control - the prescribed range is 18 degree Celsius to 29, while the actual temperature there, according to Seth was 29-32.

“The woes in the facility are endless. Two research assistants in the department of biomedical engineering went on taunting a monkey and when I tried to stop them, they said that he was used to it because they do it everyday.

“In the name of science, how can one treat animals so cruelly? And if they refuse to see the animal’s pitiable state, then its an even sadder situation,” Seth said.

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