The University of Bradford has stressed it only uses animals for research “when there is no viable alternative.”

A petition against animal testing at the university has received international support as it reaches its target of 7,000 signatures.

People from around the world have put their name to the online protest against vivisection at the university.

The petition, set up by an animal rights group, calls for experiments on animals – including “purposely starving them to make them perform procedures, conducting drug-addiction experiments on nursing animals and cutting them with scalpels to see the effects of scarring” – to stop.

But the university has said it follows all guidelines and only uses animals when there is no viable alternative in its pioneering research to improve the treatment of cancer and mental illness.

The campaign, by AnimalrightsSP on the Care2 Petition website, has attracted support from Brazil, Spain, France and Sri Lanka.

One message posted on Tuesday came from Victoria Tracey, who said: “As a resident of Bradford I am absolutely disgusted by the senseless and barbaric experiments animals are subjected to in this city.

“Bradford Uni should advocate non-animal research for better, more accurate results.”

The campaigners say: “Although the vivisection labs at Bradford are small, the amount of suffering inflicted is huge and sickening. We can reveal that animals are routinely starved to force them to perform procedures, mutilated and generally abused.

“In one experiment, nursing mothers were forced into cocaine addiction to see what they found most attached to – their offspring or cocaine.”

The Telegraph & Argus showed the petition to the university.

A spokesman said: “The university conducts pioneering research designed to improve the treatment of cancer and mental illness.

“The use of animals is tightly regulated and is only permitted when there is no viable alternative.

“The university adheres rigorously to the requirements of current legislation and is subject to a strict regime of licensing and inspection by the Home Office.”

She added that the university was committed to the principle of the three Rs – replacement of animals wherever possible with alternative methods; the reduction in the number of animals and the refinement of procedures to minimise any stress to animals.

The T&A was unable to contact the author of the petition.