The Major Gap in a New Bill in Congress to Rehome Research Animals

Cassie Jurenci

In May 2019, Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research Act of 2019 (the AFTER Act of 2019). If passed, the bill would require all federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities that have laboratory or exhibiting animals to “facilitate the adoption or nonlaboratory placement of certain warm-blooded animals (e.g., dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits) with animal rescue organizations, animal sanctuaries, animal shelters, or individuals” who are no longer needed for research and are suitable for release. According to the US Humane Society, animals used in laboratory experiments who survive experimentation are typically euthanized at the end of the experiment, if not during. In a statement, Representative Boyle explained, “[f]or years, I’ve worked to end outdated government animal testing opposed by most Americans, and have been disturbed at how many animals are killed at the end of research even though there are individuals, rescues, and sanctuaries ready to take them in.” 

Regrettably, the AFTER Act does not extend the opportunity for rehoming following experimentation to the millions of birds, rats, or mice used in research every year.

According to the US Humane Society, rats and mice are the most-used animals in research yet, along with birds, they are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In fact, “[o]nly about 1 percent of animals used in research in the United States are protected by this legislation” according to Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado—Boulder and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff explains how The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 redefined “animal” to…exclude birds, rats, and mice, bred for research. In the absence of protections under the AWA and without statistics from the USDA on the use of mice and rats in research, ascertaining the number of individuals used in research is a challenge.

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress began the “monumental task” of estimating the number of these animals used in research and, in a report published in 2000, they determined that an estimated “85 percent of vertebrate animals used in research, education, and testing are mice and rats.” Compilers of the report contacted 100 of the 2,000 research organizations in its database, and of those organizations, the report found that between 250,000 and 1,000,000 rats, 400,000-2,000,000 mice, and 130,000-900,000 birds were registered with those facilities. Considering similar estimates by other organizations, excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act means that tens of millions of animals are not eligible for rehoming after spending their lives as research subjects.

Excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act also eliminates the opportunity for these animals to live the rich lives of which they are capable after their use in research. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff details numerous scientific observations showing the emotional and social natures of rats, mice, and birds. Bekoff explains how, “[r]ats show an increase in dopamine activity simply anticipating the opportunity to play” and have been shown to “chirp with joy.” He references brain chemistry studies that “support the idea that play is pleasurable and fun.” Bekoff goes on to say that “[r]ats who are tickled bond to the researchers and seek out tickles.”

Talking about mice, Bekoff describes a scientific study on empathy in which “adult mice were injected with acetic acid, causing them to writhe in pain…. Researchers discovered that mice who watch their peers in pain are more sensitive to it themselves and that an injected mouse writhed more if its partner was also writhing.” On sadness, Bekoff explains how mice who “are bullied or consistently dominated by other mice… [and] become withdrawn” can be successfully treated with human antidepressants. Finally, Bekoff writes about the ability of birds to display ranges of emotion from happiness to anger, highlighting researcher Irene Pepperberg’s studies of the famous African gray parrot, Alex.

Certainly, as animal researchers themselves must attest based on the results of their experiments, rats, mice, and birds are capable of emotional experiences. These animals deserve the same opportunities for adoption after research granted to other commonly used research animals.

According to Pew, a growing number of states have begun passing laws requiring research facilities to provide for the adoption of healthy cats and dogs following experimentation where possible. Federally, the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs have policies relating to the adoption of certain laboratory animals no longer needed for research.

The AFTER Act is admirable in its endeavor to provide lab animals the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in caring homes and non-research facilities. However, it is deficient in scope by excluding the vast majority of animals used in research in the United States: rats, mice, and birds. The AFTER Act has remained in the House Agriculture Committee since its referral to that body upon its introduction. The bill should be amended to expand the opportunity for adoption to rats, mice, and birds.

Are Lab Animals Necessary?

Raghav Patel

For centuries animals have been used for experiments in the name of science. Scientists have urged the general public that these experiments are necessary, for the advancement of medical and scientific discovery. These scientists believe that without using nonhumans, there wouldLab Animal - Monkey be no way for us to know if the drugs or research discovered, would work or be safe for human use. This argument is flawed in many respects, but none more than the fact that nonhumans simply are not humans. Many of the experiments that bring desired results on animals does not necessarily bring the same results for humans. Actually this is the case way more often than not, with a vast majority of experiments that bring desired results in animals, but resulting in either adverse or no effect on humans. This then bears the question; why do we still use animals in scientific experiments and medical research? There really isn’t a good reason based on the facts. Researches and certain companies want us to believe that these experiments are necessary for our safety, but in reality these experiments are used by companies and researchers to hedge their liability, so that if anything does actually go wrong on the humans that use their products, they can show the results from the animal Continue reading

Ethics of Animal Experimentation — Call for Chapter Contributors

David Cassuto

From the email:

Call for Book Chapter Contributions
The Ethics of Animal experimentation: Working towards a paradigm change
Editors: Kathrin Herrmann and Kimberley Jayne
Even though nonhuman animals are used for a variety of different purposes, their use in research particularly has remained an ethical challenge. It is evident that nonhuman animals in laboratories are exposed to a great deal of physical and psychological suffering, and that the use of animals in research is growing internationally.
Arguably, legal reforms around the world have insufficiently improved the protection of nonhuman animals. However, Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes in the European Union is radical compared to other legislation. The Directive promotes a change of paradigm in nonhuman animal experimentation in establishing a goal of the full replacement of the use of live animals in research and education as soon as it is scientifically feasible (Recital 10).
Building on the radical vision of Directive 2010/63/EU, this book aims to illustrate the current situation for nonhuman animals used in science and aims to give a future outlook to the end of their use in research. Besides exploring the current ethical challenges and scientific controversies related to animal experimentation, this Volume aims to discuss ways to work towards a fundamental change of paradigm. We invite contributions from interdisciplinary scholars who share a vision for how this abolition of animal research can be achieved. The goal is to find solutions for this urging problem that are led by a culture of compassion for all animals.
List of recommended topics (but not limited to):
 The legal framework: history, present and future prospects for an end of nonhuman animal use in science
 The culture of language around the use of animals in research
 The efficacy of the ‘Culture of Care’ incl. Refinement
 Methods for assessing the quality of animal research (e.g. ARRIVE guidelines)
 The politics of nonhuman animal experimentation
 Transparency that benefits animals versus transparency that appeases the public and inhibits potential scrutiny and outrage (e.g. UK Concordat)
 The capabilities and boundaries of public engagement
 The psychological and social implications for animal research staff
 The consequences of education and training using animals
 The 3Rs – what is in it for the nonhuman animals Continue reading

Progress at the Cost of Our Humanity

Seth Victor

The New York Times this week published an investigation into U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and, perhaps predictably, the results are disturbing. I heartily suggest reading the whole article, but for those in a rush, here are some of the interesting takeaway points:

  • U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is pioneering ways to produce meat more efficiently and cheaply via re-engineering farmed animals through surgery and breeding techniques
  • In pursuing this research, animal welfare has taken a backseat. For example, since 1985, 6,500 out of the 580,000 animals the center has housed have starved. 625 have died from mastitis, an easily treatable infection.
  • Nearly 10 million piglets have been crushed by their mothers each year, not because this is what mothers naturally do, but because they are being forced to have larger litters of weak piglets, and the mothers themselves are artificially larger, kept alive longer to reproduce.
  • For thirty-one years, the Center worked on genetically modifying cows to regularly produce twins, noting that single births were not an efficient way to produce meat. By injecting cows with embryos from other cows that birthed twins, and then injecting them with semen from bulls who sired twins, the Center produced cows that have a 55% chance of having twins, when naturally the chances are 3%. Many of the female calves of twins are born with deformed vaginas, and the artificially large wombs create birthing problems even for single calves. Over 16% of the twins died.
  • Thirty to forty cows die each year from exposure to bad weather, not including storms, in which several hundred more die.
  • 245 animals have died since 1985 due to treatable abscesses.
  • In 1990, the Center tried to create larger lambs by injecting pregnant ewes with an excessive amount of male hormone testosterone. Instead, the lambs were born with deformed genitals, which made urination difficult.
  • In 1989, the Center locked a young cow in place in a pen with six bulls for over an hour to determine the bulls’ libidos. The industry standard is to do this with one bull for fifteen minutes. By the time a vet was called, the cows hind legs were broken from being mounted, and she died within a few hours.
  • The scientists charged with administering the experiments, surgeries, and to euthanize do not have medical degrees. One retired scientist at the Center was quoted saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to do it. Surgery is an art you get through practice.”
  • “The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce; center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.”
  • Regarding oversight, “A Times examination of 850 experimental protocols since 1985 showed that the approvals [for experiments] were typically made by six or fewer staff members, often including the lead researchers for the experiment. The few questions asked dealt mostly with housekeeping matters like scheduling and the availability of animals.”
  • “The language in the protocols is revealing. While the words “profit” or “production efficiency” appear 111 times, “pain” comes up only twice.”

Continue reading

Oxford Center for Animal Ethics Call for Papers

David Cassuto

From the email:

Call for Papers Second Oxford Summer School on Animal EthicsThe Ethics of Using Animals in Research

26-29 July 2015 at St Stephen’s House, Oxford

In 1947, Oxford don C. S. Lewis commented that it was “the rarest thing in the world to hear a rational discussion of vivisection”. This Summer School intends to provide just that: a rational discussion of the ethics of using animals in research.

Papers are invited from academics world-wide on any aspect relating to the ethics of animal experimentation, including philosophical and religious ethics, historical, legal, psychological, and sociological perspectives, the morality of various types of research, the use of alternatives, the confinement of animals in laboratories, and the effectiveness of current controls and future legislation.

The Centre will be producing its own review of the ethics of the use of animals in research, which should be published in the Autumn of 2014. Contributors are asked to consider responding to the methodology and conclusions of the review in their contributions to the Summer School.

Abstracts of proposed contributions (no more than 300 words) should be sent to Clair Linzey via email: depdirector@oxfordanimalethics.com. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 1 January 2015.

All selected papers will be published in book form or in the Journal of Animal Ethics.

The School is being arranged by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in partnership with the BUAV. The Centre is very grateful to the BUAV for its sponsorship of academic work on this subject, including this Summer School.

St Stephen’s House is an Anglican Theological College and a Hall of the University of Oxford.

Registration for the Summer School will shortly be available on the Centre’s website.

Our mailing address is: Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

91 Iffley Road

Oxford, EnglandOX4 1EG

United Kingdom

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

Amended CHIMP Act Allows More Chimpanzees to Retire to Federal Sanctuary

Anne Haas

On Wednesday, November 27th, President Obama signed into law a Chimp Haven Photobipartisan bill to support the retirement of research chimpanzees.

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced plans to retire about 90 percent of U.S. government-owned chimpanzees currently used in medical research to Chimp Haven, a national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. However, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, signed into law in 2000, placed a $30 million cap on spending for federally owned chimpanzees in sanctuaries. NIH was expected to reach that cap in mid-November, affecting both the retirement and care of chimpanzees in laboratories and at Chimp Haven. Continue reading

New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs. Continue reading

The Lack of Ethics in Animal Ethics Committees

Spencer Lo

Like factory farming, animal experimentation is an entrenched practice, one which causes extensive suffering to millions of animals per year despite the poor justification in terms of human benefits. Bioethicist Dr. Andrew Knight, author of the book “The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments,” discussed the ethical problems of animal experimentation and related issues over at ARZone (see also here). Because of the problems with justification, a welcome development is the continuing search for alternatives to animal testing, and animal ethics committees (AECs) set up to scrutinize research proposals are required to consider such alternatives before granting approval, as part of their mandate to ensure compliance with the 3Rs—the principles of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement. In Australia, for instance, a guiding principle in the Australian Code of Practice is to “promote the development and use of techniques that replace the use of animals in scientific and teaching activities.” The Replacement Principle gained further strength in 2008 with the following guideline: “if a viable alternative method exists that would partly or wholly replace the use of animals in a project, the Code requires investigators to use that alternative.” Thus, at face value, it appears that animal experimentation can be carefully scrutinized and suffering minimized, with animal use permitted only for the most important reasons.   Read more

Meat by any other name would be as troubling

Seth Victor

Humans have been flirting with the idea of lab-grown, or in vitro meat for a while. We’ve commented about it previously here. PETA has a standing offer of a $1 million monetary incentive for the first successful synthetic meat that can find its way to supermarket shelves. Yesterday, FT Magazine ran a feature by William Little about a lab in the Netherlands that is poised to take the big step between the laboratory and the cash register, though that step is still years away.

As usual, many of the problems surrounding this concept have been revealed through humor. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. But it isn’t the public’s perception that I worried about as I read Mr. Little’s article. It’s the viability of this process. I’ve read articles touting the benefits of lab meat, including reduced pollution and less consumption of natural resources, if the process is profitable. I’m not arguing that replacing the CAFO system we currently employ for our meals isn’t admirable. I just question whether this is the way to do it, and if we aren’t just creating a new monster.

Continue reading

Reducing Funding for Animal Research

Usra Hussain

The University of Pennsylvania houses as many as 5,000 animals a year at their medical and veterinary schools.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an official warning letter to the University of Pennsylvania for its “failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care” for some of its research animals.  Over a course of three years, reports have stated, that the Ivy League institution may be responsible for up to 115 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The inspections also noted that, “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring); dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.”  In another incident  at Penn, a newborn puppy was found dead, trapped beneath a floor grate. The puppy had slipped through the grate unnoticed, and an unknown amount of time passed before his death.

The University of Pennsylvania had more than double the amount of violations in comparison to other Ivy League schools.  The Agriculture Department, which regulates research facilities that use animals, and  the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found that the eight Ivy League universities had what it called “disturbingly high numbers of Animal Welfare Act violations,” many of which were repeat or severe. Despite these violations, the University of Pennsylvania continues to receive the highest amount of federal research funding among all Ivy League Schools.  According to PCRM, University of Pennsylvania received $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008 for researching.  Continue reading

Violence in Context

Adonia David

 Yesterday I received an email with a picture of cats that were force-fed toilet cleaner by Proctor and Gamble – an example of animal testing of the type that goes on every day.  The photo was posted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an umbrella entity that many view as a fringe and frightening network of individuals who are willing to save animals in testing facilities by taking steps that are prohibited by society such as property destruction etc. (ALF’s guidelines insist that all precautions be taken to make sure no animals or humans are harmed when any destruction occurs, but the fact remains that arson and similar activities are carried out at times).  I have seen other information posted by ALF, perhaps the most disturbing being the story of Britches, a newborn monkey stolen from his mother for a study on “maternal deprivation” and whose eyes were sewn shut to study “sight deprivation.” He was kept in what appeared to be a shut cabinet and given none of the affection a young animal requires.  Members of ALF saved him and, watching the video, I’ll freely admit that I saw them as the heroes of the story despite their reputation. Continue reading

Monkey Business

Sarah Saville

What’s the difference between an ape and a monkey? In high school I would have answered: a tail. In college I would have answered: somewhere between 3%–6% genetic differences. In law school I will answer: the amount of legal protections available to the animals.

Zoologically, great apes include bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. As defined by proposed legislation, great apes include the gibbons of Family Hylobatidae, also known as the lesser apes. The European Union ended research on captive great apes last year. Today, there are currently several proposed measures to extend protections to captive apes in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is currently reviewing whether or not to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Wild chimpanzees are currently listed as endangered, but captive chimpanzees are only listed as threatened. The current “split listing” permits the use of chimpanzees in research and to be kept as pets. In April, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011. If passed, the Act will retire all federally owned apes used in research and for breeding.   Continue reading

University of Wisconsin is Violating the Honor Code, Oh and Animal Welfare Laws

Douglas Doneson

The University of Wisconsin has slipped a measure into the state budget bill by way of the University System Omnibus Motion. Item 27:

 Liability Protections for Scientific Researchers: Specify that current law provisions prohibiting crimes against animals would not apply to persons engaged in bona fide scientific research at an educational or research institution or persons who are authorized or otherwise regulated under federal law to utilize animals for these purposes.

Basically, the University does not want to follow Wisconsin’s Crimes Against Animal laws. The university is seeking these changes with absolutely no public discussion or debate.

According to the Cap Times, scientists at colleges and universities were granted these protections June 3 by the Joint Finance Committee in measure No. 27 in this omnibus motion, which deals mostly with UW System budget issues.  No. 27 is disguised in language which demonstrates UW’s new freedoms and flexibilities state campuses were awarded from state oversight.  This measure received no public review, comment or feedback. Continue reading

Odd Animal Laws, Odd Culture

This is a guest post by Kenji Crosland, a writer for TeachStreet.  Teachstreet is a website that provides online and local classes, including classes on law and pet training classes.

In the effort to preserve a certain semblance of order certain laws (don’t steal, don’t kill) have been universal since Hammurabi, although the punishments for disobeying these laws have varied greatly. Laws concerning animal cruelty, however, are unique in that they are not necessarily “required,” to keep the peace.  For a society to establish animal cruelty laws it needs to reach a certain level of moral development.  These laws, just like the humans who created them, however, aren’t perfect, and those imperfections can give us insights into a particular culture.

These days, India and countries in Europe seem to be the most progressive, while others like China are slowly adding laws to the books.  The US is a study in contrasts: while some states are on the progressive side, there are others that are far from it.          Continue reading

Thinking Inside the Box (Where the Mice Suffer & Die)

David Cassuto

Thirty-some years ago, researchers attempting to determine if tobacco smoke was toxic put mice in boxes filled with smoke.  The mice didn’t develop cancer at the rate human smokers did.  One could conclude that tobacco was not a carcinogen but, of course, that  would be wrong.  The problem lay with the experiment, including the fact that mouse and human physiology are vastly different.

Fast forward to the present where researchers are attempting to determine if cell phone use causes cancer in humans.  Building on the knowledge gained over the last three decades of rigorous scientific method, researchers have elected to study the question by — wait for it; wait for it — putting mice in boxes.  Is it because they will learn anything of value regarding cancer, cell phones and humans?  Not hardly.  They will, however, get $25 million in funding from the NIH.    Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

Help Wanted: HSUS Animal Law Litigator

David Cassuto

Hey you litigators, here’s a good looking  job:

JOB OPPORTUNITY
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks an attorney with at least one year of relevant legal experience for a Staff Attorney position within the Animal Protection Litigation Section in our Washington, DC office.
The Animal Protection Litigation Section at The HSUS conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country, and also serves as the primary line of defense against legal attacks on legislative measures designed to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. With a team of over a dozen in-house litigators, numerous outside attorneys, and a docket of more than forty active cases, the Animal Protection Litigation Section oversees the largest litigation program dedicated to ensuring the humane treatment of animals in the country. More information is available at www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/litigation/.

General Description: The Staff Attorney will work with some of the nation’s leading animal protection lawyers on all aspects of the organization’s animal protection litigation efforts. The Staff Attorney will serve as lead and co-counsel in a variety of state and federal court actions, primarily including actions to protect threatened and endangered species, marine mammals, migratory birds, and other wildlife, and also actions to improve the treatment of captive animals such as those used in traveling shows and other exhibitions, animal fighting ventures, medical research and other experimentation, puppy mills, and factory farms.   Continue reading

Celebrities, Chimps, Vivisection — The Back From Vacation Blog Post

David Cassuto

Well, I’m back from vacation and I have a few things to report.  First, one of my favorite places: “Milsurp’s Surplus and More” has closed.  I have no idea what they sold there, never having ventured in.  Still, just knowing there was a place that was able to differentiate between surplus and more made me sleep better and wake with a smile.  Now I’ll have to look elsewhere for my reason for being.  Continue reading

Torturing Beagles (Because They’re Nice Dogs)

David Cassuto

I’ve been bothered by this article in U.S.A. Today since I read it.  The article, which talks about the rescue and subsequent adoption of some 120 beagles who were vivisected, has the typical feel-good, happy-ending narrative one often sees in articles of this type.  And don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the dogs were rescued and it is certainly a much better ending than anyone had any reason to expect for them.

Still, I found one passage especially haunting:   Continue reading

Conference on Alternatives to Animal Research

David Cassuto

Interesting conference on animal research and alternatives August 26-27th in Washington D.C.   Some skinny:

Fifty years after the development of the key model for the refinement, reduction, and replacement of animals in research, often referred to as the “3 Rs,” The George Washington University Medical Center and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, along with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, and the Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University, invite you to Animals, Research, and Alternatives: Measuring Progress 50 Years Later.

This multidisciplinary conference will bring together experts from around the world to discuss the scientific and ethical imperatives associated with animal research, changing cultural perspectives about the status of animals in society, and burgeoning alternatives to animal research.

Continue reading

World Week for Animals — Making the Case Against Vivisection

David Cassuto

We´re in the middle of World Week for Animals, during which people the world over speak out against vivisection.

People often point to the need for animal experimentation to alleviate human suffering.  Putting aside the basic objection to torturing one sentient creature for the benefit of another, the premise lacks foundation.  Animal models have always been the path of least resistance.  To justifiably claim such experiments are necessary requires evidence that those seeking to carry out the experiments have unsuccessfully attempted to learn what they seek through other means.  Assuming the absence of other means, necessity would also require, at minimum, a good faith attempt to create one.  To date, precious little resources have been expended to create alternatives to animal experiments and, when such options exist, they are often ignored.    Continue reading

Justice for Sheep

David Cassuto

You know those signs in every restaurant bathroom you’ve ever been in that declare it against the law for employees not to wash their hands after using the facilities?  I want to live in a world where such signs are not necessary.  I want to live in a world where employees wash their hands irrespective of any statutory mandate.  A world where people know that good hygiene is its own reward.  Either that, or I want the statute to apply to patrons too.  Because doggone it, call me a socialist but I think everyone should wash their hands.

I also want to live in a world where there is no need to outlaw the killing of sheep by decompression.  Until I do though, my hat’s off to Wisconsin.  It’s illegal to kill sheep by decompression there.  Of course, that didn’t stop some faculty members at the University of Wisconsin (with support from the Navy) from doing it anyway.     Continue reading

Who Gets to Know What About Whom Regarding Animal Experimentation

Guest blogger: Vanessa Merton

I know absolutely nothing about the legal merit of the ruling described below, but it raises the question whether personal identifier data about particular individual researchers legitimately should be withheld from these reports, in an era when scientists like Dr. George Tiller and Dr. Barnett Slepian are gunned down in their home or church because crusaders object to the morality of their work.  http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/murders.asp

I can understand why animal rights activists may want to know all the details of what takes place during experimentation on animals, but it’s less clear why they need to and should know precisely who is conducting the experimentation (presumably, generic listings of the credentials, licensure, training, etc. of researchers could satisfy concerns about staff competence to conduct research).  So, would and should animal rights activists agree that the research facilities may redact personal identifiers, in deference to their concerns about risk to the individual researchers?

The United States Doesn’t Torture? Animal Testing in the Military

Charles J. Rosciam is a retired captain with the Navy Medical Services Corps – a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.  He and 16 other retired armed forces medical personnel are attempting to convince the Department of Defense (DOD) to stop torturing and killing animals as part of its trauma training program.  Each year, in the name of national security and good medicine, 8500 animals get stabbed, shot, burned and amputated.  Over in the chemical casualty program, vervet monkeys get tormented with drugs whose effects have long since been banned on the field of battleanimal-testingCaptain Rosciam and his colleagues would like to see all that come to an end.

In June, the group joined with the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to brief both the House and Senate on the issue.  The DOD’s own animal regulations require that non-animal substitutes be used whenever possible.  And, according to PCRM, every one of the military’s medical uses of animals could be replaced with equivalent or superior non-animal methods. Those methods range from human-patient simulators to rotations through civilian trauma centers.

Here’s a little bit of irony: Amidst all the controversy and perseveration over detainee torture and whether such grotesqueries are legal and/or acceptable given the heinous crimes the prisoners are alleged to have committed, no one has stopped to consider why it is okay to do all that and worse to beings whose innocence is beyond dispute.  Of course, in the larger scheme, innocence or guilt is irrelevant; Torture is wrong no matter to whom it happens.  And that’s precisely the point here.

When our former president said the United States does not torture, he lied.  When our current president says it, he‘d like it to be true.

Let’s hope he hears and heeds Captain Rosciam.

You go, sir.  Fight on.

–David Cassuto

Foreskins vs. Lab Rats

You never know where you will encounter an ethical dilemma.  This article discusses how scientists are making significant progress toward phasing out animal experimentation by using cells from neonatal (human)  foreskins instead of animals in their research.   In many, if not most respects, this capability represents a tremendous leap forward.  Experimentation on animals results in the gruesome mistreatment and death of millions of animals annually (rats and mice are not even covered by the inadequate protections afforded other animals under the Animal Welfare Act) (see also here).

However, routine circumcision of infants is itself a highly problematic endeavor.  Consequently, substituting the one for the other is less a solution than a step along what one hopes will be a path toward a scientific method that does not rely on the suffering of any being at all.

David Cassuto