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We are not cruel says university; Experiments on live kittens accusations denied.

Byline: Simon Gaskell

CARDIFF University has "completely rejected" accusations of cruelty in the face of growing condemnation of its testing on live kittens.

The university has come under fire in recent days after it was revealed by the Echo's sister paper Wales on Sunday four scientists had sewed up the eyes of kittens while raising other litters in complete darkness from birth.

Cardiff Council's deputy leader Ralph Cook described the tests which took place in 2010, but have only just come to light, as "virtually indefensible."

The experiments, included in the European Journal of Neuroscience this year, have now been widely reported - inspiring horror among animal rights campaigners.

Yesterday the university took the step of issuing a further statement to clarify its position and stressed the importance of such research to the treatment of human conditions like Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye.

The statement said: "The condition can be treated in young children of up to about eight years by such measures as the wearing of eye patches.

"However, in older children and adults, as the brain increasingly prefers images from one eye, the condition is not curable.

"The aim of the Cardiff University study is to better understand this critical period in early life when the visual cortex in the brain adapts to the signals coming from the eye.

"In the long term, the aim is to use this improved understanding of the brain to treat older children or adults."

In their testing, scientists raised one group of kittens in total darkness with their mother for up to 12 weeks while performing monocular deprivation on others - meaning an eyelid was sutured.

Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), said it was "unacceptable cruel research".

But in yesterday's statement, the university defended its methods.

It said: "Cardiff University completely rejects the accusation that this experiment, which was completed in 2010, is cruel or unnecessary.

"Cats had to be used for this study because - apart from primates - they are the only mammals with frontally positioned eyes and therefore the only animals to develop severe amblyopia similar to humans under similar circumstances."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 25, 2012
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