In the letter - sent on behalf of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA) - Anderson alleges that many of the monkeys at AIIMS have been languishing in cramped and rusty cages for nearly a decade and that one monkey has been exposed to these harsh conditions for nearly 20 years. AIIMS officials denied that any such letter was received and claimed that the animal facility is 'state of the art'.
More than 40 monkeys and several other animals, including rabbits, mice and guinea pigs, are caged inside the central animal facility at the institute and are used in trials for development of new drugs. Sources said the monkeys were brought for research on human contraceptives several years ago.
"It broke my heart to see the suffering that is documented in the enclosed video. The animals suffering behind closed doors at AIIMS must endure this nightmare every day. I was shocked to see that rabbits are forced to live in wire-floored cages; the sharp wire digs into their sensitive footpads and can cause their feet to get stuck," writes Anderson.
She says that the animals exhibit signs of severe distress. "A monkey is shown climbing the walls and ceiling of the cage in an endless loop, and a rat is shown spinning compulsively. Sick and injured animals, including rabbits, suffering from an infectious skin disease, and rats with wounds, are denied veterinary care. A worker roughly overturns the rat enclosures in order to clean them, slamming the animals inside, including a mother rat desperately trying to protect her newborn babies, against the wire bars," Anderson has written in her one-page letter.
"Please, won't you at least agree to retire the animals that have been at AIIMS the longest to a sanctuary?" she adds. Animal activists from India have often raised the issue of ill-treatment of animals at AIIMS. They claim that the stress of loneliness and lengthy confinement has taken a toll on the animal's psychological health also.
AIIMS spokesperson Dr Y K Gupta said he has no knowledge of any letter written to the AIIMS administration by Pamela Anderson. "Our institute strictly follows the guidelines of the Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), ministry of environment and forests," he said. Gupta said while the monkeys are used by the reproductive biology department, the rats are needed for trials on new drugs for diseases like epilepsy as well as for strokes. He said that animal trial is a must for development of any new drug. Monkeys mimic the human model - immunity and acceptance of any drug - best. According to the CPCSEA rules, no animal should be used for experimentation for more than three years unless there is a proper justification. At AIIMS, the authorities have created rehabilitation facilities for such animals, the AIIMS official said.
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