UCL statement on the use of cats in research
2 June 2014
In response to the article regarding research using cats on the front page of today's Daily Mirror, a UCL spokesperson said:
“The research papers reported in the Mirror today were the result of research conducted between 1992 and 2002. There are currently no studies using cats at UCL, and the research groups in question have not conducted any research using cats since 2003. Researchers only use animals when there are no alternatives available and at the time cats were the most appropriate model.
"These studies were carried out under Home Office Project Licences; these had passed UCL ethical review processes and been approved by the Home Office. The animals, all adult cats, were fully anaesthetised throughout the procedure and were humanely put to sleep afterwards. The images accompanying the article are from experiments in the US and bear no relation to the UCL research. The cats were never walking around with electrodes in their brains; they were anaesthetised before any work and from their perspective, they simply went to sleep and did not wake up.
“The eye research, conducted between 1996 and 2002, produced a number of research papers and findings. The most recently-published finding provided insights into how the retina of the eye communicates with the brain. This will help scientists understand how to minimise the effect of retinal lesions and to develop ways to improve vision including retinal implants and prosthetic retinal devices to enhance the remaining vision.
“The spinal cord research, conducted in 1992, investigated how the brain controls breathing movements. Understanding how this control is normally achieved is essential in developing treatments for spinal cord injury. These specific experiments are particularly important for developing procedures that could re-establish vital functions such as the ability to cough which is lost or severely damaged in spinal cord injury.
"Despite advances in non-animal methods it is still essential to use animals where no viable alternatives exist - for both the clinical science which directly informs medical treatments, as well as the basic science which, by advancing understanding of biological processes, is an important precursor to it. The earlier work carried out on cats provided an excellent understanding of how the visual system works. As a result, it is no longer necessary to use cats as the model for this type of work which is why it has been discontinued."