Olympics to showcase growing Chinese animal testing industry
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:
BEIJING–The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing will showcase the
fast-growing Chinese animal testing industry, the official Xinhua
news agency disclosed on November 15.
“All food and ingredients to be prepared in Olympic kitchens
will be fed to white mice a day before they are served to athletes,”
explained Beijing Municipal Health Inspection Bureau representative
Translated the BBC, “The mice will be fed milk, alcohol,
salad, rice, oil and seasonings. Mice show adverse reactions [to
common forms of food poisoning] within 17 hours, while laboratory
tests take much longer,” Zhao Xinsheng said.
The Olympic connection surfaced amid publication of frequent feature
articles about animal testing in China by Beijing-based business
writer Jehangir S. Pocha.
“Because animal rights groups make it difficult for drug
companies to build or expand animal-testing laboratories in the
United States, Europe, and India, Glenn Rice, chief executive of
Bridge Pharmaceuticals Inc., is outsourcing the work to China,
where scientists are cheap and plentiful and animal-rights activists
are muffled by an authoritarian state,” reported Pocha for the
Boston Globe on November 25, 2006.
“In terms of animal supply, China is a good place to be,”
Rice told Pocha, “as it is the world’s largest supplier of lab
monkeys and canines– mostly beagles.”
Said Pocha, “Large drug companies such as Novartis, Pfizer,
Eli Lilly, and Roche have disclosed plans to set up research and
development centers in China. But the real growth is likely to come
from mid-sized companies that outsource animal testing to companies
such as Bridge, which can offer them prices that are about half of
those charged by U.S.-based competitors. By 2008, that could double
the size of the pre-clinical outsourcing industry, which was worth $2
billion last year, Rice said.”
Rice predicted that Bridge, capitalized with $26 million
from private investors, will be profitable within a year of start-up.
There is at present virtually no government regulation or
monitoring of laboratory animal use in China.
“U.S. regulations generally require that all drugs must be tested on
at least two species before being submitted for approval by the Food
& Drug Administration,” wrote Pocha in an October 30, 2006 feature
for Forbes, “and Bridge’s Beijing facilities are designed to
experiment on rats, mice, rabbits, dogs and monkeys.
“The animals are bred for laboratory use and must be kept
germ-free,” Pocha observed. “Great attention is paid to how often
the animals’ cages are cleaned and how often they are exercised. But
the moral questions about inflicting pain and suffering on animals to
comfort and cure humans can’t be so neatly addressed.”
The Pocha articles grew out of a single paragraph of an
August 14, 2006 Globe feature which, widely forwarded by Mary de La
Valette of the Massachusetts-based Gaia Institute, seemed to awaken
the U.S. animal rights community to the trend of protest-weary
companies outsourcing animal testing to nations with little or no
pro-animal activism. Often noted by ANIMAL PEOPLE in recent years,
outsourcing animal testing to China, India, and eastern Europe was
also featured in a January 2006 edition of Business Week.
PETA responded by introducing shareholders’ resolutions at
the Eli Lilly and Pfizer 2006 annual meetings, asking the companies
to “justify why [they are] increasingly exporting animal testing to
countries with no or poor animal welfare standards.” PETA further
asked Eli Lilly and Pfizer to “assure stockholders that these
overseas labs are, at the very least, complying with animal welfare
standards man dated by the U.S. government.”
U.S. and European activist observation of activity in Asia
has tended to focus on primate supply, beginning with the joint
campaign by the International Primate Protection League and the Blue
Cross of India that cut off Indian exports of rhesus macaques to U.S.
labs in 1978. Abuses similar to those exposed in India 30 years ago
continue to surface in other Asian nations.
The British Union Against Vivisection alleged in October
2006, for example, that a year-long probe found that “the world’s
largest monkey breeding farm in Long Thanh, Vietnam, kept animals
in decrepit cages and weaned young monkeys prematurely,” the
Cambridge News said. “The farm, owned by the Vietnamese/Hong Kong
company Nafovanny, supplies animals to Huntingdon Life Sciences,”
according to the BUAV, “but fails to meet minimum international
guidelines,” the Cambridge News continued.
The Himalayan Times, of Kathmandu, Nepal, warned on October
21, 2006 that “With slack legal provisions and loopholes, Nepal can
become the next target for those willing to export monkeys to the
U.S. for conducting biomedical research.” The Himalayan Times noted
that the U.S. imported 26,319 monkeys from 18 nations in 2005, of
whom 10,608 were for biomedical research and 1,369 for other
“Covance Research, the largest importer brought in 12,549,”
the Himalayan Times recounted. “Charles River imported 3,818 monkeys,
Primate Products imported 2,340, Rhenos LLC imported 2,760, and
SNBL USA imported 1,672.
But increasingly often, experiments are done in the
animals’ nations of origin, minimizing regulatory oversight–and
research is sometimes done covertly, the American Journal of
Primatology disclosed in June 2006. “Scientists investigating the
genetic make up of rhesus macaque monkeys, a key species used in
biomedical research, have found that rhesus in Nepal may provide a
suitable alternative to alleviate a critical shortage of laboratory
animals used in work to develop vaccines against diseases such as
HIV/AIDS,” said the article synopsis.
Summarized Himalayan Times reporter Razen Manadhar, “More
than 20 rhesus macaques were darted and trapped to have their blood,
stool, and hair tested in June 2003 at Swoyaiubhu temple, on the
pretext that the monkeys had fallen ill mysteriously. A team of
American experts came here without the knowledge of the government
and returned with the samples, without providing any treatment to
“The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act states that
nobody can collect samples from any animal for scientific research,”
Manadhar wrote. “However, permission can be sought from the
Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) after
paying 2,000 rupees for each red monkey and justifying the need for
the test. But, according to the officials, the researchers did not
even notify them about the testing.”