Malaysia okays controversial British animal testing lab

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Malaysia will not shut down a controversial British-funded animal testing lab after investigations showed that the animals were not exposed to torture, a senior official said Thursday.

The veterinary services department launched a probe this month after animal rights campaigners accused the Progenix Research lab based in the northern state of Penang of cruelty to animals.

The lab, which is run by the Britain-based Alpha Biologics, uses monkeys, dogs, rodents and rabbits for toxicology testing.

Veterinary services department director Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin said there was no evidence that Progenix abused animals and that it would not order the facility to be closed.

"The problem is not that they have been using animals -- they can use animals but within the limit of standards that we have drawn up," he told reporters.

"They complied (with the standards) all the while, so we should not worry."

Abdul Aziz said the animals were not being put through any suffering, adding that a special team has been set up to monitor the facility.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection had charged that "animals are quite literally poisoned to death" at the lab, in a country that has no laws governing their welfare.

Progenix said on its official website that it was committed to the "ethical use of animals in research only when there is no suitable non-animal alternative."

A local Malaysian leader last month drew criticism from campaigners for saying that God had created animals to be used by man, amid controversy over an Indian drug company's plans to build an animal testing facility in the country.

Malaysia is bidding to become a major biotech hub in Southeast Asia.

© 2010 AFP

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