Dr. John Hepburn. (Photo: UBC)
Dr. John Hepburn. (Photo: UBC)

UBC defends animal research

by - Story: 60693

Officials with the University of British Columbia say construction of an animal research facility at the Kelowna campus should be hailed as good news.

Dr. John Hepburn, VP Research and International with UBC made the comment in response to accusations by the animal rights group Stop UBC Animal Research.

The animal research facility, which is being built in the basement of the Arts and Sciences building, is slated to open in September.

"I think it's exciting actually for UBC Okanagan. This is part of UBCO becoming an important research university," says Hepburn.

"The addition of a medical school is big news because the research that gets done is obviously relevant to the health and welfare, not just to the people in the Okanagan, but people around the world."

Stop UBC Animal Research has condemned the university for plans to build the facility at the Kelowna campus, saying it is keeping the project hush-hush because of public opposition to animal experimentation.

"The fact that UBC wanted to keep this new facility hush-hush, tucked away in a basement out of sight shows the university does not want the public to know what it is doing to animals behind closed doors," says group spokesman, Brian Vincent.

Hepburn disagrees.

"Typically animal facilities are kept low profile and there always is a concern about people who are opposed to using animals in research. But, no, there was no conscious effort to keep this top secret."

According to Hepburn, testing will be done only on rats and mice, however, he could not guarantee that would be the case down the road.

"I wouldn't want to make that assurance. That's all that it's planned for and really there is no capacity to house substantially larger animals than rodents in there. We couldn't keep sheep or pigs in there because it's a small room."

He says facilities such as these must meet certain standards set out by the Canadian Council on Animal Care.

"Any research project any individual research project, even ones with rats and mice, have to be approved by an ethics board. Any research is subject to very tough scrutiny."

Hepburn says the CCAC monitors everything from the way research projects are reviewed to how the animals are cared for.

He says most of the research will be bio-medical.

"Rats and mice are typically used for developing new treatments for disease. In other words if you wanted to test out a new drug you would typically develop a drug through experiments in rodents along the way in doing experiments in humans."

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