During the month of April 2021, after Carlota Saorsa’s research at the Vivotecnia laboratory in Madrid was uncovered in this same space, the reactions from the community of experimenters were few but unanimous. To cite just one, the European Animal Research Association (EARA) declared that what the images showed were “unacceptable examples applied to a number of different animal species”. Their mouths filled with “indignation and total rejection” and they were quick to point out that these were isolated cases and never the day-to-day of animal experimentation.
A few months later I had the privilege of participating on behalf of Nietzsche’s Horse in a forum on the ethical problems of animal experimentation. During one of the breaks, a staunch defender of these practices told me that the Vivotecnia video had shocked the public a lot but that, in reality, this is what is done in laboratories: “If people saw live the operations on human beings, he would be scared too.”
I will come back to this point at the end of the article, but the first part of the argument is already extremely revealing and I appreciate the sincerity of my interlocutor in admitting what we already knew: that animal experimentation is suffering and there is no way to avoid it, because it consists precisely in that, in making individuals sick and in taking them to the limit to analyze their physical and psychological responses, and, finally, to kill them.
Declarations of Carlota and veterinary expert
As we know, the objective truth does not necessarily have to coincide with the judicial truth. The complex Vivotecnia process continues and we must be prepared because they are going to try to make us believe that the abuse we see through Carlota’s camera is, as my interlocutor said over coffee, something perfectly legitimate, habitual and protected by our legislation. The trial is in the investigation phase and it is possible that the case will be archived for some of those investigated. We would be facing the umpteenth tease to the public in everything related to Vivotecnia.
The attitude of the laboratory has changed radically. The initial “concern” seems to have faded and practically the same people continue to work there, carrying out the same processes. It’s not about avoiding evil, it’s about defending it and hiding it so it doesn’t leak out again.
As we learned from the media, Carlota Saorsa declared a few months ago and explained in detail in court the broader context surrounding the images that she herself recorded for more than a year. Here are just a few examples:
- Animals that those responsible kept in the study and denied euthanasia despite suffering. Nothing was done to alleviate this condition. If the next day they were still alive, they continued experimenting on them.
- Rabbits that were kept alive until the end of the study with their spine broken, to avoid casualties.
- Euthanasia without sedation or without waiting for it to take effect.
- Eye blood draws without anesthesia or sedation.
- Mice and rats that became blind or lost their eyes due to the injuries produced by said extractions. As they were not sedated, the animals moved more and the technique was more aggressive and painful.
- To anesthetize, or not to do so, responded to the orders of the person who directed the study.
- practices to be done post-mortem but that it was tested to be carried out with live animals by order of the person responsible for the study.
- Practices with primates in which everything was laughter and teasing, as well as harassment of the animals and handling with aggressiveness and blows.
- Data manipulation in studies, as is the case of the dog that was left to bleed out for hours before being euthanized and replaced by another animal.
- Lack of an ethics committee in the company.
We have learned, from sources close to the process, that the declarations of a large part of the experts have also already been produced, including the expert from the UCOMA veterinarian, the Central Operational Unit for the Environment of the SEPRONA Headquarters. This report confirms that there are 15 scenes in the videos in which “indications of practices compatible with animal abuse” can be seen.
Manipulations that cause added suffering to the animal are also detected in the expert report, as well as omissions of attention to the animals, unnecessary prolongation of the procedure, use of incorrect training techniques and maintenance of the animals in inadequate conditions. It seems that the sensitivity of the public is not so far from the findings of experts in this field.
kill the messenger
The maximum person in charge of Vivotecnia, Andrés König, and the first person against whom the complaint was directed, has not yet been called to testify as investigated. He himself has been forced to give a statement by the personnel responsible for the laboratory, as is the case of one of the directors of some of the studies from which the recordings come. The strategy is to maintain, using many technical terms, regulations and a number of experiments, that what for the rest of the world is abuse would be perfectly defensible behavior and, above all, legal.
Killing the messenger is a classic way of evading responsibility; Blaming subordinates – especially the protected witness – has also been a defense strategy. Just as an example, which blushes anyone with even the slightest knowledge of canine ethology: it goes so far as to deny that the dog that was spinning around in the cage, scratching the walls in an agonizing looping motion, suffered from a serious stereotype. This behavior, which is identified with situations of chronic stress sustained over time, as well as with states of pain, is justified by saying that there were “dogs in heat nearby”. It is also stated that rabbits broke their spines because they are animals with a very delicate and weak spine.
Time does not heal anything
The fact that more than a year has passed and that the media is no longer talking about Vivotecnia does not make the video any less unbearable nor does it mitigate the suffering of those animals.
The fact that the defense is focusing on trying to make believe that these are isolated situations taken out of context within necessary processes, does not prevent us from being able to detect the suffering, cruelty and gratuitous violence that are exercised against these animals.
The fact that the laboratory of horrors continues to be contracted by entities such as the CSIC itself or the Fundació Parc Científic of the University of Barcelona has not made us forget the looks of the Vivotecnia animals, quite the contrary.
The fact that animals continue to suffer and die, at this very moment, in that and in all the laboratories and the fact that the employees who appear in the videos continue to work as if nothing had happened, only increases the indignation before a system that knows it goes unpunished.
merchants of doubt
The laboratory continues to pocket hundreds of thousands of euros, many of which are public money, and continues with its activity, at the CSIC, at the Barcelona Science Park and at other public bodies. Some have said that they are “forced” to hire Vivotecnia, not because it is the best alternative for these centers, but because in the Public Administration the companies that present the cheapest offers win the tenders, even if they are not the ones that offer the best service guarantees. And I ask myself, what has happened and could be happening in other laboratories managed by Vivotecnia? How is it possible that, in the face of images such as those disseminated, there are no measures that prevent Vivotencia from continuing with its commercial activity?
Now we have no choice but to hope that justice is not totally blind and that the truth that forces us to close our eyes, because we cannot bear it, does not become material for the merchants of doubt.
We also have hope before the alternatives to animal testing. That young researchers recognize the unsustainability of these practices, both from an ethical and scientific point of view. That specialized publishers begin to understand the anachronism of requiring animal experiments to publish studies on their pages. That the political class be brave and apply what European legislation already contemplates.
I do not want to end this article without once again thanking Carlota and all the people who before her have infiltrated to bring the truth to light. Because without her, without all of them, without her courage and her empathy, society would never have known what happens every day inside the laboratories. Carlota, you are not alone, and you never will be.
And no, Mr. Defender of animal experimentation, when we see images of operations on human beings we may be impressed, but we are perfectly capable of distinguishing between a situation in which the subject has given his consent and is sedated, and pure cruelty against the defenseless, helpless and totally sold beings that we see in the Vivotecnia videos. You can try to defend the indefensible, but stop taking us for idiots.