Government Calls for Research into Animal-Free Antivenom That Could Spare Thousands of Horses Suffering

Immediate Release:

3 November 2017

Dr Dipti Kapoor; [email protected]

Benazir Suraiya; [email protected]

PETA Stresses Need for Modern Non–Animal Derived Antivenom Instead of Drugs Made From Blood Harvested Horses

Delhi – On 1 November, India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), which was set up by the government’s Department of Biotechnology, put out a call for research into the development of modern, animal-free antivenins to counteract the effects of snake venom, which is currently treated in India with drugs made from horses’ blood. BIRAC’s announcement comes after Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)–authorised inspections conducted by experts – including a veterinarian and scientist from PETA – revealed rampant abuse of thousands of sick and malnourished equines on squalid Indian blood-harvesting farms. It also followed a series of meetings with committees consisting of members from various government departments and PETA, at which PETA – the only participating animal rights organisation – pushed for the production of recombinant antivenom, which can be made in a laboratory without using horses.

“Non–animal derived antivenoms would bring profound relief to the horses who are left to suffer without proper veterinary care while being used as living blood bags,” says PETA Science Policy Adviser Dr Dipti Kapoor. “PETA looks forward to a day when effective, animal-free antivenoms are the norm, and BIRAC has just brought us one step closer to achieving this goal.”

Antivenoms made from animal-free recombinant technology would provide a uniform, higher-quality product with fewer side effects for the patient – and they would have a longer shelf life than antivenoms made from animals do. The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is funding the development of a non–animal derived antitoxin that can be used to treat diphtheria.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – notes that many equines at blood-extracting facilities suffer from anaemia as well as untreated wounds, diseased hooves, malnourishment, infections, parasites, swollen limbs, lameness, and eye abnormalities. At most of the facilities inspected by the AWBI, records indicated that many animals were bled several times a month and had more blood drawn than is permissible under the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) guidelines. This year, CPCSEA temporarily suspended the experimentation licence of Chennai-based Mediclone Biotech Pvt Ltd – one of the facilities implicated in the damning AWBI inspection reports – pointing out that the institution has repeatedly failed to improve its animal-housing facility.

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