Mice crammed into congested cages in Calicut University’s ‘animal house’, says complaint

Mice are reared and bred in academic institutions for scientific experiments in labs. The Department of Life Sciences at the University of Calicut, however, is now accused of keeping a licence-less ‘animal house’, where hundreds of rodents are crammed into small cages.

A recent police complaint filed by Radhakrishna G. Pillai, assistant professor with the department, said the head of the department and the professor in charge had “failed to perform their responsibilities and prevent infliction of pain and suffering on the mice as directed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960”. Mr. Pillai said the department had no certificate from the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals, a statutory panel under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Because of this, the department has not been able to make use of the facility for around three years. The new ‘animal house’ building was opened in 2019.

According to reports, the mice are kept in small, congested cages. At least 18 to 25 of them are there in a cage that can house only four or five of them. There are no separate cages for males and females or space to move about. The mice get pregnant, and deliver babies, which get killed by others. Rules mandate appointment of a veterinary doctor, even on a part-time basis, to ensure their care. A supervising committee that has scientists, local social activists, and government representatives should also be set up. All requests for scientific experiments should be vetted by this panel. The university has none of these, it has been claimed.

B.S. Harikumaran Thampi, head of the Department of Life Sciences, however, has termed the allegations baseless, saying that the institution had a licence till 2017. “Application was submitted for a renewal of licence when the new building was constructed. The supervising committee suggested setting up of CCTV cameras and centralised AC system. These facilities are being added now, after which an application will be submitted afresh for licence,” he said.

Maneka Gandhi, MP, and former Union Minister, had written to Vice Chancellor M.K. Jayaraj on December 30, asking why the mice were kept there if there was no need to keep them. She also sought to know what action had been taken against complaints on ill-treatment of the animals.

Mr. Pillai, who is under suspension at present, said on Saturday that the police officials did not act on his complaint though they had the powers to search the premises and examine the allegations.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:03:47 am |