Reacting to a Hindustan Times report titled “Caged to Die” on October 6, the Ministry of Environment and Forests sent a team from the Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) to check on the condition of animals at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Even before the team went inside to inspect the animal facility, one of the members of CPCSEA, Dr Anil Kumar Gupta, accused the HT reporter of her intent being motivated.
“Earlier media blamed AIIMS for phase III trials, you are pointing fingers at phase I and II trials, it seems like you want to stop all research activity going on at AIIMS. It could be some international organisation funding you,” he said.
“The animal facility at AIIMS meets the required standards prescribed by the CPCSEA and one had no reason to doubt the animals are being ill-treated,” said Dr Gupta, who is an expert consultant with CPCSEA.
HT had reported earlier on two monkeys –– number 2287 and 2617 –– who are about 18-22 years and have spent their entire life in two-feet by two-feet enclosures.
Both the monkeys should have been freed many years ago, according to the CPCSEA norms, which says no animal can be experimented on for more than three years. Defending this, Dr Gupta said the monkeys “have been kept in captivity for breeding and not for the purpose of experiment.”
When asked about the age till when monkeys (rhesus macaques) could breed, Dr Gupta did not respond.
The report also carried a picture of sheep with leg deformities. Dr Gupta said the sheep are not “suffering from bone degeneration or arthritis. Their legs are crooked because they are a case of ‘healed fracture, callous formation’.”
Yet again, the reporter was not allowed to enter the animal facility. “We can let you go in only after the CPCSEA committee submits its report,” said Dr Y.K. Gupta, spokesperson, AIIMS.
The administration did not allow the members of Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre to enter the facility either, saying, “You do not let any outsider enter your territory.”
Pragya Juneja, director at the Maneka Gandhi-run, animal care facility was at AIIMS to rescue and rehabilitate the sick animals, but not
given permission despite several requests.
AIIMS authorities are waiting for the CPCSEA members to submit their report before initiating any further action. “We have also asked the AIIMS ethics committee and animal welfare committee to submit their reports. We shall take appropriate steps only after reviewing all reports,” said Sailesh Yadav, deputy director administration at AIIMS.
No action has been initiated against the senior veterinary official Dr Pardeep Yadav. He escorted the CPCSEA members into the facility.
“We will take action if the administration finds anything wrong. If any deficiency is found all efforts will made to rectify it,” said Dr YK Gupta.