Animal campaigners claim “shockingly futile experiments” are being carried out by Leicester University on pigs to study the aesthetics of wound scarring.
Animal Justice Project claims the experiments on 10 three-month-old female Red Duroc pigs involves their backs being shaved before being subjected to 20 full-thickness scalpel wounds.
The campaigners claim some injured pigs were left untreated, while others had salbutamol sulfate rubbed on their wounds – an already commercially available drug.
They claimed wounds were marked with ink tattoos and scars were observed for almost two months before the animals were killed, they claim.
The campaigners add that researchers concluded that salbutamol improved acute skin scarring and ‘could have significant potential as a treatment’.
Spokeswoman Claire Palmer said: “Leicester University is a large user of animals for research, much of which is funded by the taxpayer, via medical research charities.”
She claimed: “We uncovered a nasty example of an entirely futile experiment on pigs which could have been carried out on humans, in real-life situations.
” These animals were confined, subjected to wounds and then killed. For what? Leicester University must move away from animal research, and put ethics before funding and career ladders.”
Between 2009 and 2013, it’s claimed, Leicester University received £690,660 for animal research from medical research charities.
A university spokesman, who said the animals are not housed at the university, said: “Research involving animals remains essential to medical advances which are saving the lives and relieving the suffering of millions of people.
“Our robust ethical review procedures ensure that animals are only used in research programmes where their use is shown to be necessary for developing new treatments and making medical advances, and no alternatives exist.
“Scarring, following surgery or trauma, is a major cause of discomfort and distress to patients and the most serious or visible scars can cause significant anguish, morbidity and functional problems.”
He added: “This is especially true for patients with darker skin tones who often suffer disfiguring hyperpigmentation making any skin injury especially traumatic.
” The most severe cases can cause life-changing debilitation and prolonged, expensive and frequently ineffective medical interventions.
“There are no clinically proven active treatments currently available to prevent or reduce scarring.
“We strongly believe that topical application of salbutamol provides a unique opportunity to offer an affordable and effective scar prevention therapy.
“Our previous Medical Research Council-funded work demonstrates that salbutamol has all the properties required of an ideal scar prevention therapeutic in the closest skin model to humans and the only animal model that scars, Red Duroc pigs.
“It is clear, therefore, that patients undergoing surgery will directly benefit from this research.”