KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — An Indian bio-tech company's plans to set up laboratories for testing dogs and primates in Malaysia have angered animal rights groups who say the trial subjects could face suffering because the country has no regulations on animal research.

India's Vivo BioTech Ltd. inked a 450 million ringgit ($141 million) joint-venture deal in January to set up a biotechology center in southern Malacca state to develop and manufacture medicine. The center will include laboratories where trial medicines will be tested on animals.

Vivo officials declined to comment on the issue when contacted Monday. Malacca state officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Activists say tougher regulations on animal testing in the West are pushing companies to outsource to Asia, where there are lax regulations and cheaper costs.

In a joint statement issued over the weekend, Malaysia's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments cried foul over the project because Malaysia has no laws protecting the welfare of animals used in experiments.

"Malaysia currently has no legislation governing the use of animals in research," the statement said, adding that they opposed the proposed facility for "both ethical reasons and the lack of scientific validity of using animals in testing."

The groups submitted a protest letter to the government last week, urging it to halt the project, and also requested a meeting with the local authorities to discuss the issue, SPCA official Jacinta Johnson said Monday.

"Malaysia should not open the economy to businesses like this as it promotes cruelty," she said.

Officials from the wildlife and veterinary departments said Monday they were not aware of the project and have not received any application from Vivo Biotech to import animals for research.

The company has said previously that Vivo may import beagles from Holland and try to obtain domestic primates for testing before turning to overseas sources. Companies need permits to import or export wildlife or any protected species in Malaysia.

Last year, a French pharmaceutical research company proposed setting up an animal testing laboratory in southern Johor state using imported macaques, but the project was suspended amid an outcry from environmental groups.

The proposed facility in Malacca is a joint venture involving key majority shareholder Vivo BioTech, state government-owned Melaka Biotech Holdings and local firm Vanguard Creative Technologies.