NIRAH reacts to animal rights critics


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A team of top academics has reacted to the criticisms of NIRAH by animal rights campaigners by producing a document to explain what the project is really about.

The 250 million complex, which recently got approval to be built in a former brick-pit in Bedford, is going to combine the world's largest public aquarium with a unique research facility, all in a domed structure four times bigger than Cornwall's Eden Project.

However, animal rights campaigners believe that NIRAH will be conducting invasive research upon the organisms kept there, removing specimens from the wild and they disagree with keeping fish in captivity.

The document, which looks at NIRAH's proposed animal husbandry and welfare ethics, has been penned by an impressive team of top scientists, including four professors, a zoologist and one of the UK's top fish vets. It aims to dispell some of the misunderstandings animal rights groups have about the project.

Perhaps most importantly, NIRAH isn't going to be conducting invasive research on any of the organisms due to be held in the facility. It says:

"The word 'experiment' carries a very powerful negative association. NIRAH will not 'experiment' on any vertebrate for whatever reason unless it is in the interests of its species to do so, eg. if a species is threatened in the wild by pollution, NIRAH must discover what substance is causing that threat, so limited number trials must be carried out for the benefit of that species. Any such trials will be subject to intense ethical scrutiny beforehand.

"NIRAH will not conduct or condone vivisection on any living vertebrate for whatever reason."

The project has also been accused of being a cover for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who make substantial sums of money by finding unique proteins which they can investigate as candidates in the drug discovery process. However, NIRAH says its main remit is actually to safeguard species from extinction:

"The overriding aim of NIRAH is to conserve endangered species and their indigenous habitats, including the humans inhabiting these places.

"By studying how to sustain these species in captivity, with a view to their eventual re-introduction, it is hoped that attributes of the species may be discovered (such as medically or scientifically useful or interesting venoms, poisons or toxins) which will encourage the people co-inhabiting their natural environments to actively protect and conserve them."

Unlike virtually every other major aquarium in the world, 95% of the organisms at NIRAH will be freshwater:

"NIRAH is unique in being the world's largest freshwater aquarium and herpetarium. One of the main considerations is the protection of freshwater species and their habitats. At this moment in time, humanity has made very few marine species extinct, whereas thousands of freshwater fishes, amphibians and reptiles have become extinct since 1900."

To read more about the type of work the project will be covering, please visit the NIRAH website.