A Malaysian leader Sunday drew criticism from animal rights groups for saying it was the "fate" of animals to be used in drug testing at a proposed multi-million-dollar laboratory in his state.
The remarks came after activists last month slammed Indian drug company Vivo Bio Tech's plan to build the 140-million-dollar lab in Malacca, a state in southern Muslim-majority Malaysia, for testing animals in preclinical trials.
They said the project will cause "immense suffering, misery and death" for thousands of animals, and urged the government to stop the project as the country has no law governing the use of animals in research.
Defending the project, Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam said the use of animal was allowed in laboratory trials and dared critics to replace the animals in the tests with humans.
"In Islam, God made animals as food and for the use of man. How can you not test on animals? Would you rather run the tests on humans?" he said according to the Malaysiakini news website, adding "that is (the animal's) fate".
"I should call this group for a dialogue and I will ask them if they are prepared to replace the rats and monkeys" with humans, Ali added.
Ali's aide Daud Awang confirmed the chief minister's remarks to AFP, adding that he was unsure when construction of the laboratory will commence.
Christine Chin, a spokeswoman for a coalition of animal rights groups opposing the project, said Ali's remarks were "uncalled for" and "unbecoming" of a leader.
"We are just asking for a humane and a more progressive method, there are alternative methods available without having to use animals. We lack an anti-cruelty law for animals here," she told AFP.
The coalition includes the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Selangor, Friends of the Earth Malaysia, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments.
State officials said the project had been agreed in New Delhi in January between Vivo Bio Tech and Malaysia's state-owned Melaka Biotech.