Cardiff University has defended sewing kittens' eyes shut after comedian Ricky Gervais condemned the experiments as "appalling".
The controversial methods used by four scientists at the Russell Group university were revealed on Sunday by WalesOnline. The test results have been published in the European Journal of Neuroscience but attracted strong criticism from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
One vet working for the BUAV questioned how relevant the experiments, which have been publicly funded through the Medical Research Council, were to humans and said the same information could have been taken from testing humans.
On Tuesday, Ricky Gervais publicly aired his disgust at the revelations, telling The Mirror: "I am appalled that kittens are being deprived of sight by having their eyelids sewn shut. I thought sickening experiments like these were a thing of the past."
But Cardiff University has defended the experiments, which aim to find a cure for lazy eyes, saying:
"The condition can be treated in young children of up to about eight years by such measures as the wearing of eye patches.
“However, in older children and adults, as the brain increasingly prefers images from one eye, the condition is not curable.
“The aim of the Cardiff University study is to better understand this critical period in early life when the visual cortex in the brain adapts to the signals coming from the eye.
“In the long term, the aim is to use this improved understanding of the brain to treat older children or adults."