Scientists cleared over avalanche pig research

The Innsbruck public prosecutor’s office announced yesterday (Tues) that it had ended its investigation of three scientists who had participated in a controversial experiment with pigs.An investigation into three scientists accused of carrying out controversial experiments on pigs has ended with a no guilty verdict.The Innsbruck public prosecutor’s office announced Tuesday it had ended its investigation after two animal protection organisations filed formal complaints about the scientists in the middle of January following their involvement in the experiment in the Tyrolean Alps.The experiment involved burying tranquilised pigs in snow to see how they reacted to conditions similar to those faced by humans caught in avalanches. Researchers chose pigs because of their biological similarity to humans.But ten of the 29 pigs died before negative public reaction persuaded scientists from Innsbruck Medical University and the Institute of Mountain Emergency Medicine in Italy to cancel the rest of the experimentsOffice spokesman Hanjörg Mayr said that the experiment had been approved by the federal Science Ministry and there was no doubt that it had been conducted in accordance with procedures approve by the ministry.The three scientists issued a statement in which they claimed the public row over the experiment had caused harm to the principle of freedom of research anchored in the constitution.Experiment manager Peter Paal from Innsbruck Medical University called the cancellation of the experiment “a great loss to the project.”Public outrage over the experiment extended to a bomb threat against a Tyrol bank.Bosses at a Raiffeisen branch in Sölden near the site of the experiment said the threat had been sent in a letter after the bank had been mistakenly identified as having been part of the experiment. Police, however, said the bank had had nothing to do with the experiment.