China: Peking University Using Street Cats for Laboratory Testing ?

South China Morning Post

by Yu Aitong

May 11, 2010

Peking University Health Science Centre has been accused of using street
cats for laboratory testing
, and the university has confirmed the cats were
purchased but were not bought from local sellers.

The Beijing News reported on Monday that the university was using cats in
its laboratory research by students.

The newspaper sent a reporter, who pretended to be an auditor for a
pharmacology testing class. Before the test started, a white cat weighing
less than three kilograms was hidden in a bag outside the laboratory,
waiting to be dissected.

Later it was brought in a wooden box specially designed for anaesthetising
without the cat scratching the laboratory staff. The staff injected 3 per
cent of a narcotic through holes on the top and side.

Once anaesthetised, the cat was placed on an operating table with its four
legs tied by ropes, its jaws were opened and a metal ring inserted.

Two and a half hours later, the test was finished and a student injected a
chemical into one of the cat’s legs to kill it. A cleaner packed the body
into a plastic bag to be incinerated with that of another cat, which had
died during the same class.

The report said some students had asked their teachers where the cats came
from because they were curious why the laboratory cats smelled badly and
appeared dirty. The teacher told them they were wild cats from the suburbs
and a laboratory employee explained that “a private cat seller will send
cats to the school whenever we call”.

The newspaper quoted an unidentified animal protection association as saying
Beijing had wild animals in the suburbs, and most cats the sellers caught
were street cats
. According to a survey conducted by the Capital Animal
Welfare Association, the Beijing suburbs had at least 200,000 street cats
from 2004 to 2007.

The Regulations for the Administration of Affairs Concerning Experimental
Animals, approved by the State Council in 1988, state that all experimental
animals must have known backgrounds or be artificially fed and bred under
strictly controlled conditions. Animals for experiments can be classified as
quality animals, clean animals, animals carrying no specific pathogens and
animals carrying no bacteria.

The Health Science Centre denied the statements by its teacher and
laboratory staff.

Jiang Hui , chief of the Peking University propaganda department, told the
South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) : “The university
does use cats to do experiments, but those cats were not bought from private
cat sellers. We buy them from professional animal farms. I have the formal
purchase invoice,” but he refused to give the farms’ names or any further

“We have not violated the country’s regulations,” Jiang said.

Professor Zheng Zhenhui , chief of the school’s experimental animal science
department, said: “The test the newspaper witnessed was a classic animal
test that has used cats for more than 30 years in China, and cats are the
most suitable animal for it. The country has a specific regulation to manage
`experimental animals’, but experimental animals are only one type of all
animals used for experiments. The university has fed animals we are licensed
to use, but for the other animals we need during the teaching process [and
cats are one of them], we have to purchase from the market.”

He said there was a difference between “experimental animals”, which are
covered by state regulations, and other animals used by laboratories, which
are not regulated, and cats are among the latter.

The Peking University Health Science Centre, the first university on the
mainland to teach Western medicine, has more than 28,000 students.

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