Animal-rights activists in Munich have been accused of using confidential information leaked from a Bavarian ethics commission as the basis of a campaign against experiments on Java macaques.
Konrad Messmer, director of the institute of surgery research at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, also claims that a leak formed the basis of a deliberate media disinformation campaign. The activists say the information was obtained via legal channels.
Several newspapers and radio stations in Bavaria last week reported that a researcher at the institute intended to amputate the arms and legs of the macaques for xenotransplantation studies. The researcher and his family were inundated with aggressive telephone calls from animal-rights activists and animal lovers.
But the experiments, which were approved by the Bavarian authorities in July, merely involve the microscopic analysis of the macaques' thigh muscles under anaesthetic. The research is designed to investigate the mechanisms of rejection reactions in human organ transplants. Messmer says the experiments are not related to xenotransplantation, nor do they involve amputation.
In response to the accusations, research lobbyists in Munich are now considering taking legal action against unknown members of the ethics commission.