Animal experiments at Wickham Laboratories
Exposed: Appalling suffering at a UK animal testing laboratory
In 2009, our investigator went undercover for 8 months at Wickham Laboratories, a UK contract animal testing laboratory. She secretly filmed the appalling suffering inflicted on thousands of animals in cruel, crude and archaic tests for the routine batch testing of products.
This included the weekly use of hundreds of mice in poisoning tests for Dysport® (a preparation of one of the most toxic substances known, botulinum toxin, commonly known as botox).
Rabbits were also used, in pyrogen (fever) tests where a test substance is injected into an ear vein to detect contaminants and the animals were forcibly restrained by their necks in stocks for hours at a time.
WARNING video contains footage that some viewers may find upsetting
WARNING image gallery contains graphic images that some viewers may find upsetting
Animal tests for botox
The mice were used in the controversial and cruel ‘LD50’ test for botox. ‘LD’ stands for ‘lethal dose’ and ‘50’ refers to the dose at which 50% of the mice are expected to die when injected with the poison.
The mice were injected into their abdomen with botox and then periodically observed to see how many died. They became increasingly paralysed, eventually gasping for breath and suffocating to death. No pain relief was provided.
The staff were supposed to kill the mice when their suffering became too great. But we discovered this was a sham because far more of the mice died an agonising death than were killed.
Those mice considered unlikely to survive until the next check were taken out into the corridor and crudely killed on the floor by breaking their necks with a ball point pen. New staff, who had never killed mice before, were expected to practise breaking necks on live mice. Sometimes they broke their backs instead of necks causing excruciating agony for the mice.
Using rabbits in tests
The rabbits used in pyrogen tests at Wickham Laboratories could be starved for up to 30 hours prior to the animal experiment. During the test they were forcibly immobilised by their necks in stocks for several hours.
The tests were uncomfortable and distressing for the rabbits,. Researchers injected a test substance into a vein in the rabbits’ ears, sometimes resulting in painful damage to their ears. They also inserted a temperature probe 7.5cm deep into their rectums and left it there for hours.
Some of the rabbits struggled against these tests and their confinement. Wickham Laboratories acknowledged that their struggling could result in the rabbits becoming injured, particularly to their backs.
Some rabbits were killed at the end of the test. Others were returned to their cages to be re-used again and again in yet more pyrogen tests.
Animals were kept in small, virtually barren cages that failed to meet their behavioural and social needs.
Some animals suffered in tests that were no longer required by national and international regulations. This made a mockery out of the often-made claim that companies have to do tests because regulators require them.
The UK government is legally obliged to enforce the use of non-animal alternatives to animal tests where they exist, and to ensure that, if animals are used, then it should be the minimum number and with the minimum amount of suffering. Our investigation found that the UK Government failed to meet this obligation at Wickham Laboratories.
Despite a UK and EU ban on the use of animals for cosmetic testing, animals were allowed to be used in tests for botox. A loophole in the law allows animals to continue to suffer dreadfully in tests for botox because it is licensed for medical use. Yet botox very often ends up being used – quite legally – for cosmetic purposes. We believe this is wrong.