CHANNEL 4 was bracing itself for protests this week when it announced that it would screen footage of a dog being killed by lethal injection before a post-mortem examination in a medical research laboratory.
Viewers of the drama-documentary Animals, to be shown after the watershed on the broadcaster’s digital channel More4 on Monday of this week would also see a monkey being pumped full of chemicals after having a tube stuck down its throat, and beagles inhaling drugs through a mask.
The film was the first of a series of programmes examining the use of animals to test drugs. Channel 4 refused to identify the laboratory because of a fear of reprisals. Scientists agreed to co-operate to widen the debate about animal experimentation.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: "This is an important subject which affects us all and polarises opinion. We want to give our viewers an insight into what really happens within a laboratory. We were allowed access to a working animal laboratory and filmed what went on there as it was taking place. Our actors were not involved in any animal testing but we cut real scenes into the drama."
The two-hour drama, which is interspersed with interviews with scientists, activists and commentators, follows the story of a laboratory scientist and animal welfare activists as their lives intertwine. Having withstood threatening letters, abusive graffiti and bricks being thrown through his window, the scientist finally crumbles after the family car is set on fire and his wife and nine-year-old daughter leave him.
The drama was inspired by real events from the past five years that culminated in the desecration of the grave of Gladys Hammond, mother-in-law of Chris Hall, a guinea-pig breeder. He and his brother were forced to close Darley Oaks Farm, which supplied medical research laboratories, after intimidation from the Animal Liberation Front, which described it as an "animal death camp".
The law requires drugs to be tested on two animals, and there are 85 commercial laboratories experimenting on 2.8 million animals a year.
The film has pleased anti-vivisection campaigners. A spokesman for the Animal Liberation Fund said: "Anything that widens the public’s awareness of how animals are treated in our society is a good thing."