• Adjournment Speech on Xenotransplantation

    XENOTRANSPLANTATION

    Xenotransplantation is the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another. There are currently xenotransplantation experiments occurring at Prince Alfred Hospital using baboons from the Wallacia breeding facility. A recent media expose described Frankenstein-like operations that transplanted organs from pigs into baboons. Millions of dollars of taxpayer‑funded research grants is used, but the hospitals are not required to provide details to the public about the nature of these experiments. Questions to the Minister have failed to yield answers.

    Human-to-human organ transplants are now routinely performed on patients with organ failure. Australia is a world leader for successful organ transplant outcomes but is twenty-second on the international list for organ donations. Public awareness is, however, improving. In 2015, 69 per cent of Australians indicated a willingness to become organ and tissue donors and there was a record 435 organ donations to 1,241 patients. The Federal and State governments have implemented a national reform program to increase donation rates. The program will implement a world’s best practice approach to organ and tissue donation for transplantation. Its aim is to increase clinical capacity and capability, and to increase community engagement and awareness in relation to organ donation.

    Unfortunately, the current rate of organ donation does not meet demand, and this has been used to justify xenotransplantation with animals. Xenotransplantation occurs predominantly with primates and pigs and is a death sentence for those animals. If xenotransplantation ever becomes a surgical practice there will be mass wastage preceded by enormous suffering for the animals. Sentient beings will be reduced to nothing more than spare parts and tens of thousands of animals will die miserable deaths in laboratory conditions.

    Xenotransplantation seriously impacts animal wellbeing. From the moment the animal is born it is unable to express natural behaviours and will suffer frustration, deprivation and stress. The sterile conditions in which the genetically engineered animals to be used for transplants will be kept poses a significant stress factor. To reduce the risk of exposure to disease sows have their pregnant wombs removed and the piglets are placed into a sterile environment. The piglet is unable to suckle from its mother, it is medicated and reared on artificial foods containing no animal products.

    Aside from the animal suffering involved in xenotransplantation, there are serious human health risks with this procedure. Possible problems with transplantation of whole organs from animals to humans include viral diseases transferred from animals, rejection of the organs by the patient’s immune system, and differences in structure and biochemistry between human and animal organs. Pigs contain endogenous retroviruses that are passed on to offspring in the DNA of normal chromosomes, and therefore cannot be eliminated. Viral sequences in host DNA can be activated to produce infectious viruses in mice, cats and gibbons that are closely related to leukaemia viruses and are a second cousin to HIV.

    The following are examples of diseases transferred from primates to humans: monkey pox is a virus originating in African monkeys causing a 10 per cent fatality rate in humans; the HIV-AIDS virus is thought to have come from the primate simian immunodeficiency virus [SIV]; seven laboratory workers died following exposure to Marburg virus through African green monkey kidneys; Ebola virus recently killed thousands of people in central Africa and has been linked to monkeys; and the herpes B virus is a common infection of macaque monkeys but in humans it can develop into a fatal neurological disease. Given the terrible animal suffering and massive wastage of sentient beings, the risks to human health and the expense involved in experimentation, would it not make more sense to save money and encourage a more compassionate outcome for all beings, by focusing our efforts and resources on community education programs to promote organ donations?

    These research materials were sourced by Dr Suzanne Pope.

  • 17/03/2016: Question without notice, Baboons used in medical research

    Mark asked the Minister for Medical Research and Assistant Minister for Health. An answer was provided on the 4th of May. Apart from the general lack of oversight revealed in the answer the alarming fact that the Animal Research Act 1985 restricts the disclosure of information obtained about specific research projects. If everything is ok and acceptable to community expectations then what does the government and researchers have to hide? Transparency is key for community trust so why is it that anything relating to animal use hidden from the community and the citizens whose taxes fund this research?

    Would the Minister advise the House of the critical outcomes of the medical research conducted from 2012 to 2015 on baboons kept at the Wallacia facility, pertaining to xenotransplantation, including whether xenotransplantation was performed on a baboon known as Conan?

    1. If so, was this the first of its kind in the world?
    2. Did Conan die due to complications from this procedure?
    3. What experiments were performed on the baboons known as Scar, Belvedere and Frazer? What were the causes of their deaths?

    ANSWER

    The Department of Primary Industries administers the Animal Research Act 1985.
    The Department accredits animal research establishments and receives reports on animal use statistics from them each year, which are collated and reported in the Animal Research Review Panel Annual Report. The information collected is general and deals with numbers of different species of animals used for categorised purposes and categorised levels of impact. The Department does not routinely collect more specific information about individual research projects.
    On a needs basis, information is obtained about specific research projects in the course of administration of the Act. The Act restricts the disclosure of this information.
    Each accredited establishment is responsible for ensuring that research applications are approved by their Animal Ethics Committee. The research applications must include detailed information including the justification for the use of animals, as well as the impacts of all parts of the research project on the animals, and how these impacts will be minimised.
    Published articles are available in the scientific literature on the use of baboons from the National Baboon Colony for xenotransplantation studies. See for example the American Journal of Transplantation June 2014

  • 25/02/2016: Another milestone for animals in NSW Parliament

    So the first week back for the NSW Legislative Council is done and a historic one it has been. On Tuesday, three separate political parties gave notice of bills that will positively affect animals. The Animal Justice Party gave notice of a bill to ban animal research on primates, Greens NSW a bill to create an Independent Animal Protection Authority, and NSW Labor a bill to enable inspectors to remove dogs and cats from animal breeding establishments (puppy farms).

    Please watch my video blog for all the great updates including the Koala Park Sanctuary and dolphin petition.

    Thanks for the support!

  • 23/02/2016: Mark Pearson gives notice of Animal Justice Party’s next bill, the Animal Research Amendment (Primates) Bill

    It was another historic day on Tuesday the 23rd of February 2016, the first sitting day back for the Legislative Council of NSW saw animals enter the mix of cross party politics. Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party gave notice of his next bill which seeks to bring an end to animal research to be carried out on primates in the name of science.

    The Animal Research Amendment (Primates) Bill will amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to prohibit the use, keeping or supplying of primates in carrying out animal research. It will prohibit the use, supply or keeping of primates in connection with animal research and will make it illegal for a person (including an accredited research establishment, a holder of an animal research authority or a licensed animal supplier) to use, keep or supply a primate in connection with animal research.

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    Primates are virtually the only animals taken from the wild in large numbers for bio-medical research. Even though breeding colonies exist, it is still estimated that over 1,000,000 primates are taken every year from the wild, with over two thirds being used for bio-medical research. The NSW Sydney facility at Wallacia breeds primates in captive colonies for research.

    A great ape research ban, or severe restrictions on the use of great apes in research, is currently in place in the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Austria. These countries have ruled that chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are cognitively so similar to humans that using them as test subjects is unethical. Austria is the only country in the world where experiments on lesser apes, the gibbons, are completely banned too.

    The use of animals for research and testing is totally unacceptable, inaccurate and outdated. Instead, Australian researchers should be using non-animal research methods which have been proved to be more accurate and of greater relevance, producing improved results faster. In 2013 Humane Research Australia commissioned a Nexus Research Poll which revealed that most Australians (60%) are opposed to the use of primates in research.

    Bio-medical and pharmaceutical research claims the lives of an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 non-human primates worldwide each year, fueling the primate trade to meet demand. Despite this, strong evidence suggests that research using animal models provides unreliable results. Increasing numbers of scientists and clinicians are challenging animal experimentation on medical and scientific grounds.

  • 11/08/2015: Medical Advances Without Animals Trust

    Motion by the Hon. MARK PEARSON agreed to:

    (1) That this House notes that the Medical Advances Without Animals [MAWA] Trust operates as an independent medical research and educational trust which facilitates the development and use of non-animal based experimental methods by working cooperatively with the research community.

    (2) That this House acknowledges and congratulates:

    (a) the leading role that the MAWA is taking in replacing the use of animals and animal products in the field of medical research and consequent improvements in human health;

    (b) the MAWA for directly funding a wide variety of research projects and advanced scholarships to support research into a vast range of diseases, disorders and disabilities in leading universities and research institutions Australia wide, such as research within the fields of immunology at the University of Sydney and regenerative medicine at the University of Western Sydney; and

    (c) the recent renewal of the partnership between the MAWA and the Australian National University to establish the Australian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Research.

    Hansard link – HERE

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