For Immediate Release:
20 November 2019
Dr Dipti Kapoor ; [email protected]
Hiraj Laljani ; [email protected]
Court Directs a Representative of the Animal Welfare Board to Be Present During the Next Hearing
New Delhi – Yesterday, the High Court of Delhi ordered the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and companies manufacturing biological products using horses to respond to PETA India‘s petition to phase out the use of equines in antitoxin production and make the transition to non-animal production methods. The court granted four weeks‘ time to those parties who haven‘t filed responses yet and specifically directed the AWBI to have a representative present in court during the next hearing, on 19 February 2020.
In 2015, the AWBI appointed a team to inspect the health and welfare of horses and other equines housed at facilities producing biological products, whose blood is used to make antitoxins to treat diphtheria, rabies, snakebites, and other afflictions. Inspections found that these animals were in poor condition, and there were apparent violations of rules and guidelines for the use of animals in experiments under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The inspectors reported that seriously ill equines were left to die slowly and painfully instead of being afforded suitable care or euthanasia. A horse at one facility was observed collapsing in pain caused by the blood-collection process, and many of the animals were suffering from anaemia, untreated infected wounds, diseased hooves, malnourishment, parasites, swollen limbs, lameness, corneal ulcers, cataracts, and blindness.
The latest inspections done by teams authorised by the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) in 2017 found many facilities using horses for production of biologicals to be “unsatisfactory“, in violation of its guidelines. They found serious concerns regarding the animals’ housing, including slippery floors, and poor welfare conditions, including frequency of bleedings and volume of blood withdrawn far in excess of the prescribed standard as well as a lack of appropriate grooming practices, and they questioned the effectiveness of the oversight by the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee, which reports to the CPCSEA.
The CPCSEA guidelines acknowledge that harvesting blood from unhealthy animals results in poor-quality drugs that can negatively affect humans. Moreover, there are known safety issues associated with the use of drugs made using equines, as equine-derived antitoxins may cause hypersensitivity, serum sickness, and other issues in humans.
PETA India has been urging relevant officials to replace the use of equines for antitoxin production with existing non-animal methods. Some anti-rabies products which are developed without using horses and approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, are already available on the Indian market, including Rabishield by the Serum Institute of India, PlasmaRAB by PlasmGen Biosciences, and Berirab P by Bharat Serums and Vaccines.
“Drug producers’ days of using horses as living blood bags have to end,“ says PETA India Science Policy Adviser Dr Dipti Kapoor. “PETA India looks to the government to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry switches to modern, non-animal drug production and that frightened, lame, and malnourished horses are freed from these miserable factories.“
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd., of which PETA India‘s scientists are members, has funded the development of a non–animal diphtheria antitoxin, which has a longer shelf life than animal-derived treatments and avoids causing the serum sickness associated with injecting such products into humans.
PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on“ – opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com.