On the 21st November 2017, we were informed that our friends at Passion 4 Paws (an animal sanctuary which has since closed down), had been given five pigs who were originally from the Auckland Island pig breeding facility at Awarua. Passion 4 Paws were trying to rehome all of these pigs who had spent their lives in a breeding facility, where their piglets were used for stem cell research.
The pigs were originally taken from Auckland Island in 1999 by the Rare Breeds Conservation Society, the "rescuers" then formed a trust with the Invercargill City Council, and called it the Southern Heirloom Breeds Trust. Prior to this, the pigs had been isolated on the island for an estimate of one hundred years. This made the pigs desirable for research subjects as they hadn’t been exposed to the pathogens and diseases that other pigs, in non-isolated areas, had.1
Cells from Auckland Island pigs are being used in new trials, which involve capsules of pig cells being implanted into the brains of people with well-established Parkinson's.2
The Auckland Island pig breeding facility was closed down in 2016. Fifteen of these pigs are still at Southland Heirloom Breeds Charitable Trust in Invercargill and are still being used for research into Parkinson's disease. Our friend, Dr Andre Menache, explains why this is scientifically flawed here.
2. Wilson, Clare, "Pig cells treat Parkinson's", New Scientist (17 June 2017) p. 6.