Over the weekend animal rights activists entered a laboratory conducting animal studies, set loose some of the animals and switched cages, ruining years worth of research, according to lab officials.
Nature reported that the unauthorized entering of the laboratory in the pharmacology department at the University of Milan was part of a protest staged by people with the group Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill).
Pharmacologist Francesca Guidobono-Cavalchini, who works in the building, said, according to Nature, that they believe five activists obtained a keycard to enter the building illegally. Once inside, the activists set free some animals and mixed up cages and labels. Two even put chains around their necks, attaching the other end to the main double doors of the facility, which could cause bodily harm if the opened by authorities.
“These animals did not choose to be there and have no chance to leave,” the activists stated on their website (translated via Google Translate). “With this unprecedented action we want to document the conditions in which animals live and experiments that are conducted, showing them to the whole society with photographs and films; give visibility to the problem of vivisection and the places where it is practiced, thus giving a name also those who practice it, to start a siege peaceful inside and in front of the laboratory with the request that the animals are released and that the Ministry and the Palaces of an end to the false promises and really started to take steps towards the abolition of animal testing.”
Nature reported Paola Viani, the deputy director with the pharmacology department, saying he had to work with police to reach a compromise with the activists. They ended up taking less than 100 animals with them and were supposedly told they could take more from the facility later.
“It will take three people at least a year to build up the colonies we had of mouse models of different psychiatric diseases,” neurobiologist Michela Matteoli said.
Guidobono-Cavalchini told Nature the university intends to press charges for the damage done.
On Sunday, scientists issued a letter (translated by Google) stating that the activists damage “goes far beyond the loss of animals illegally removed,” but extends to a loss of scientific discovery and hundreds of thousands of euros.
Acknowledging that there is a controversial component to animal research, the scientists continue in the letter stating that it can be of service to humanity and thus ask that the activists be brought to justice for “the agencies, individuals and families of patients who fund our research.”
“We also hope that what has happened can help to clarify the difference between ‘vivisection’ and basic research aimed at discovery of therapies for diseases that are incurable and severely disabling that plague our society,” the letter stated.