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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Lab staff at Venomtech in Canterbury accused of cruelty to animals by campaigner Sara Hamilton

27 February 2014
by Lowri Stafford

Sara Hamilton launched a petition against the practices of Venomtech, which extracts venom from snakes, scorpions and spiders to sell to medical researchers.

She claims the animals are kept in cramped conditions, and the process – in which spiders and scorpions are anaesthetised and given a mild shock to stimulate the release of venom – is akin to torture.

Stephen Trim inspects a Togo starburst tarantula

Stephen Trim inspects a Togo starburst tarantula

Venomtech founder Steve Trim, who rents offices at the University of Kent, strongly denies Miss Hamilton's claims.

Miss Hamilton has collected more than 500 signatures from around the world since February 14 and hopes to obtain 100,000 to prompt a debate in Parliament.

She said: "I knew that this would receive a good response. I wanted to make people aware of these practices that are going on and bring a stop to it."

She claimed it was very upsetting how the creatures were kept.

Chris Loaring extracts venom from a scorpion

Chris Loaring extracts venom from a scorpion

Extracting venom from a scorpion in Canterbury

Extracting venom from a scorpion in Canterbury

The secretary, who lives in West Sussex, dismissed claims by Mr Trim that his company is helping to find potentially life-saving drugs to treat strokes, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

She added: "There are enough pain relief drugs on the market, we don't need any more."

Mr Trim, who founded the company in 2010, denies the animals are kept in cramped conditions and refers to awards the company has won for its animal husbandry.

King Baboon Tarantula from Africa

King Baboon Tarantula from Africa

A Mexican Beauty Tarantula

A Mexican Beauty Tarantula

He said: "We were the first people in the scientific community to show that tarantulas respond to environmental enrichment. We give them artificial leaves and tubes to hide in, and they exhibit relaxed postures and better demeanour.

"We also won the most significant impact on animal welfare award 2012 from the Institute of Animal Technology.

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

"Our work with these captive bred animals has shown that they are as content as we can accurately say a spider is and we look after them well, as a farmer tends their herd."

As for the venom extraction process, Mr Trim said the animals are sedated carefully and the "shock" they receive is actually a mild stimulation 20 times gentler than muscle-toning machines.

He added: "Many of our animals have been with us for nearly four years and continue to grow and thrive.

"We collect venom only when needed and for many of our animals this is only about twice a year.

"Through our unique processing of the venom we have reduced the amount we need to collect by 1,000 times, which means our animals have a very easy working life."

What do you think? Join the debate below.

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