The warning is clear even before the video begins, "GRAPHIC IMAGES - video may be inappropriate for some users."
Scenes of alleged cruelty and suffering inflicted on dogs, pigs, monkeys, rabbits and mice by Vivotecnia, a company based in Madrid, have been released in a nine-minute video by the Cruelty Free International organisation.
The group claims that the video illustrates “systematic violations of European and Spanish laws aimed at protecting animals” in the laboratories of Vivotecnia, a biotechnology company dedicated to toxicological and pharmaceutical research.
The regional government in the city has suspended the testing operations of the company with immediate effect while investigations are carried out.
The animal welfare organisation said that a former employee of Vivotecnia came forward with concerns about the treatment of animals and they were supported with video that was recorded between 2018 and 2020.
In a statement the NGO explains that the video shows “that deliberate acts of gratuitous cruelty are carried out against animals - in many cases without anaesthesia and with obvious signs of suffering - including hitting, shaking, and verbal abuse."
"It's unimaginable that this could be happening in Europe today," says Dr. Katy Taylor, CFI's Chief Scientific Officer.
“The case shows the dark side of the regulation of animal experimentation. We have uncovered a horrendous mix of suffering and cruelty in the way these animals are being kept, handled and abused in toxicity tests, in addition to numerous violations of Spanish and European law.”
For its part, the European Association for Animal Research (EARA) has issued a statement in which it says that the use of animals is essential for biomedical research and that it "has played a crucial role" in the development of vaccines against Covid-19. In this context, the statement underlines, in accordance with EU legislation, that safety tests on animals prior to human trials are "a legal requirement", but that "the highest priority should always be given to the welfare of the animals."
The association has expressed its concern about the images and requests that the unedited documentation be made public but "acknowledges that what has been shown so far reveals examples of unacceptable animal welfare standards applied to a number of different animal species."
The statement points out that Vivotecnia is not a member of EARA but is a signatory of the agreement on the use of animals in scientific research in Spain, promoted by the Federation of Scientific Societies of Spain (COSCE).
In a statement to the British newspaper The Guardian, the executive director of Vivotecnia, Andrés König, categorically denies the accusations. "We work at all times to guarantee the quality of our work, always taking animal welfare into account," he says. The company representative says that the images seen in the recording "do not represent the day-to-day reality" at Vivotecnia during its 21 years of existence.
The regional government in Madrid has explained in a statement that the case has been reported to the Seprona animal and nature protection branch of the Guardia Civil.
According to official statistics 817,742 animal experiments were carried out in Spain in 2019. More than half of research animal tests are aimed at advancing the fight against major human diseases including cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Aids and other serious infections, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer’s.