Vigil for Pigs Shot at Otago

Vigil for Pigs Shot at Otago

“We’re Doing God Knows What to Them”

Animal rights activists held a silent vigil at Dunedin’s vivisection laboratory last week after learning live pigs were shot in the head during back-spatter experiments. 

Back-spatter is the term given to blood and tissue that issues from the entry wound caused by a bullet and moves back towards the person shooting the firearm.

The vigil came just days after animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), publicised the nature of the experiments. 

The experiments were part of a collaboration between the University of Otago, the University of Auckland and the government-funded Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

Justin Goodman, director of PETA US’s Laboratory Investigations Department, called for an end to such experiments in a press statement. 

Goodman said not only is the “shooting [of] a living being” to test back-spatter “appalling” and “indefensible”, it is also “bad science”.

Goodman said manikins and computer modelling can be used in place of live animals, and can also garner a better result. “[T]here are anatomical differences between humans and animals that cannot be ignored,” he said.

A university spokesperson said the project was undertaken to help confirm whether a model head, which had been created for studying back-spatter, provided the same results as an actual human head. 

“The project’s purpose was to investigate the biomechanical basis of back-spatter from close-range gunshots, an area that had been little studied.”

“[Back-spatter] is often important evidence in homicide cases and its accurate interpretation can be key to exonerating the innocent or convicting the guilty.”

Since the data to validate the model head was obtained through the study, “no similar experiments are planned”.

Carl Scott, spokesperson for the Dunedin Animal Rights Collective, also spoke of alternatives.

“Many alternatives exist which allow scientists to collect the data they need, yet don’t require any animals to be killed. Also, because pig’s skulls are so different than human skulls, it is difficult to imagine how the data they collected could even be useful,” said Scott.

Scott said the reason for the outcry after PETA’s announcement is due to the nature of the experiments and the type of animals used.

“Vivisection has been talked about for many years, people are aware that happens,” said Scott. However, people have a “soft spot” for pigs.

“They’re very intelligent animals, a lot of scientists say they’re more intelligent than dogs and as intelligent as a three-year-old child, and yet we’re doing God knows what to them … The violent nature of the experiments just has that feel of outrage about it.” 

The university spokesperson said the experiment went through a “robust animal ethics approval process” and was “conducted humanely”.

The five animals were anaesthetised and “deeply unconscious”, and a veterinarian was present for the procedure. The spokesperson said the animals were “closely monitored for signs of pain and none were observed”. 

Scott called for public discussion about granting rights to animals. “We believe the time has come for some serious public discussion about granting rights to animals; not mere welfare reforms … It’s time we started addressing this enormous and urgent issue collectively as a society, and started making the necessary changes,” he said.

This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2015.
Posted 10:40am Sunday 27th September 2015 by Laura Munro.