5th April 2016
Exposed: Ex-racehorses and Dartmoor ponies used in experiments
Horses purchased from private owners for UK laboratories
We’ve today exposed that Dartmoor and Welsh Mountain ponies and former racing horses have been used in experiments by UK laboratories in recent years.
We’ve also found evidence that horses purchased from private owners, including a farmer, have ended up in experiments.
In 2014, 8,079 experiments were completed on horses and ponies. 187 animals were used for the first time. There are no restrictions on where laboratories can source their horses and ponies to be used in experiments.
Some of the research has been funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.
Many horses are kept in laboratories for years and are repeatedly blood sampled to produce biological materials like serum. Other horses are used for basic research.
At least five UK laboratories have carried out experiments on horses or ponies in recent years:
- University of Cambridge
- Royal Veterinary College
- Animal Health Trust
- University of Bristol
- University of Liverpool
In 2014, the Royal Veterinary College stated it had carried out 79 horse experiments, while the University of Liverpool used 18 ponies in research.
Cambridge University has authorisation from the Home Office to carry out cruel experiments on pregnant horses and their unborn foals. Up to 150 horses over a 5-year period (until 2018) can be used. The experiments could involve:
- compressing umbilical cords or cutting umbilical vessels during pregnancy so that unborn foals do not receive enough nutrients
- surgically removing glands
- injecting the animals with hormones or drugs that affect growth and metabolism
Although the University of Bristol claims not to have recently used horses in experiments, it has admitted to previously using ex-racing horses in pain experiments. The horses were subjected to both thermal and mechanical pain while the effectiveness of a painkiller was assessed. A ‘special heating device’ was placed on the horses’ shaved neck skin and blunt pins pushed against their legs until the animals reacted in pain.
Michelle Thew, Chief Executive, Cruelty Free International says: “Many people share their lives with horses and ponies and we believe the public will be horrified to learn that these majestic animals are subjected to such cruel experiments here in the UK. Just as disturbing is the revelation that there are no restrictions regarding where the laboratories can obtain these animals. Instead of continuing to exploit horses and ponies in these experiments, we urge researchers across the UK to shift their focus to developing humane methods. The UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing.”