Letter: Patent cruelty to animals

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The Independent Online
Sir: The European Parliament's decision to allow animals to be classed as patentable inventions ("Europe gives green light to gene law", 17 July) could lead to huge increases in animal suffering.

If the proposed directive becomes law in its present form, patents on small animals will become readily available. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) believes that this would provide a huge commercial incentive to animal genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is now the fastest growing area of animal experimentation, with 226,618 experiments being carried out on animals with "harmful genetic defects" in 1995.

Laboratory animals are genetically engineered to act as models of painful human diseases. Farm animals, already pushed beyond their natural limits, have been genetically engineered to grow quicker or bigger, and have suffered from ulcers, muscular weakness, poor vision and other disorders as a result. Additionally, genetically engineered animals may suffer from severe, even lethal, unpredicted side-effects.

The classification of animals as "patentable inventions" goes directly against the growing recognition of the inherent value and rights of animals. This was emphasised at the recent EU summit meeting in Amsterdam where a protocol to the Treaty of Rome classifying animals as "sentient beings" was adopted by all member states.

The Council of Ministers will now consider the proposed directive. We urge the Government to take this opportunity to press for a ban on all animal patents.


Chief Executive

British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

London N7