Written by PETA
Congress is considering a bill to reform the way that this country tests and manages toxic chemicals, and PETA has submitted testimony.
Because the legislation seeks to require more chemical testing, it will lead to vastly increased suffering of animals in laboratories if it's passed. That's why it's vitally important that you tell your congressional representative to make sure that the final bill requires the use of modern, effective non-animal research methods and scraps cruel and archaic chemical tests on animals.
The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, H.R. 5820, incorporates some major reforms. Even though the EPA has acknowledged that non-animal testing methods provide more accurate results, the current bill would force the agency to run plans to implement non-animal tests by a committee of government officials that is widely recognized as a major obstacle to the development and use of new non-animal methods in the U.S. We need reform, but it must be the right kind of reform—change that improves public safety and protects animals against unnecessary suffering.
Animals in laboratories have no time to lose—please speak up right now to save their lives!
Written by Jeff Mackey
In a study that sounds like something dreamed up by the mischief-makers at The Onion, experimenters at the University of Colorado (CU) have determined that putting mice into uncomfortable cages and moving them from cage to cage upsets them to the point that it physically alters their brains. This, the experimenters conclude, "affects the outcomes of research." Gee, ya think?
Another stunning discovery: Introducing a strange mouse to this already stressful mix may even cause the animals to fight to protect their little bit of turf. Experimenters also injured the animals' noses and shoved them into cages with either low or high ventilation for a few weeks, killed them, and cut up their brains for examination.
"We assume that mice used in laboratories are all the same, but they are not," Diego Restrepo, director of CU's neuroscience program, told Science Daily. Wow, if only someone had called us, we could have saved Restrepo (and the mice) a lot of trouble—not to mention all the government grant money it would have saved the taxpayers. We also could have told him that housing animals in crowded cages and failing to provide prompt veterinary care and adequate anesthesia during painful surgeries (all of which has been documented at CU laboratories) can also skew research findings.
Anybody who has spent any time with mice knows that they each have individual personalities, just like cats, dogs, and all other animals do. They also feel pain and experience loneliness, boredom, and fear. So, yes, sticking them in cramped cages, hauling them out every once in a while to poke and prod them, and forcing them to live in close proximity with strangers upsets them. Apparently, Common Sense 101 isn't a prerequisite at CU.
Written by Alisa Mullins
Animals across Japan are making a bid for freedom (hopefully, captive animals everywhere are taking notes). First, a dolphin who was being forced to perform stupid tricks for loud, obnoxious audiences day in and day out at Japan's Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium decided that he'd had enough. During a performance, he leaped over the side of his tiny tank. Unfortunately, he landed on the concrete instead of being transported back to his ocean home.
Then, earlier this week, 15 monkeys at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute (PRI) escaped from an enclosure (dubbed a "forest home" in news reports—yeah, right) by using tree branches to fling themselves over a 17-foot-high electric fence.
Sadly, freedom was short-lived for the monkeys as well. All the runaways were eventually recaptured. The head of PRI said that the monkeys didn't stray too far, probably because they wanted to be near the monkeys who were left behind.
Someone should listen to the SOS signals that animals in captivity are sending. Instead of keeping dolphins in chemically treated tanks and forcing them to "dance" for fish or locking monkeys in enclosures so that vivisectors can drill holes into their skulls, attach electrodes to their brains, and fasten small wire coils directly to their eyes to study eye movement (which is what some experimenters at PRI do), we should be leaving animals in the wild.
Please take action today to help us free captive marine mammals and put an end to senseless and cruel experiments on monkeys and other animals.
Written by Shawna Flavell
The following posting originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
If anyone out there is still wondering about the superiority of alternatives to animal tests, look no further than what is happening right now in the Gulf of Mexico. In its efforts to assist the devastated region, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is saving time, money, and the lives of countless animals—those suffering in laboratories—by using efficient and effective non-animal methods to study the endocrine effects of chemical dispersants that could be used to clean up the oil gusher.
In fact, using non-animal testing methods is the only way that the EPA can get information about these chemicals in a short period of time—a few weeks as opposed to years. Without such sophisticated methods, the EPA would have to rely on crude and cruel animal toxicity tests that date back to the 1930s, and we would be waiting years to know anything at all about these chemicals. Considering the dire conditions of the region, waiting years for an answer is simply not an option.
The modern in vitro tests that the EPA has on hand to study the endocrine effects of eight oil spill dispersants are rapid and automated, in contrast to what the EPA calls "time consuming and expensive" animal tests. Testing one chemical on animals can cost millions, versus the EPA's estimated $20,000 using in vitro testing. And while cost considerations are important, turn-around time is even more essential as ecosystems totter on the brink of disaster. The EPA states that, on average, it would take a researcher "eight hours a day, five days a week, for 12 years" to conduct these studies using traditional animal tests. The computer-driven in vitro tests deliver results in three days. The EPA has already completed the first round of toxicity testing on these dispersants.
The situation in the Gulf highlights the necessity of toxicology testing reform. Most of the tests used in standard chemical screening today were developed in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. They are heavily reliant on animals, are slow and costly, and have yielded inaccurate information about the effects of chemicals on humans. And they have allowed dangerous chemicals such as benzene and arsenic to enter and remain on the market—even after millions of animals have been killed in decades of testing.
Our current system is overloaded and incapable of accurately screening the tens of thousands of chemicals reportedly in the environment already, with more entering every day. Scientists and government agencies are now recognizing that "it is simply not possible with all the animals in the world to go through new chemicals in the blind way that we have at the present time, and reach credible conclusions about the hazards to human health" (Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Nobel laureate in medicine).
Indeed, Congress and the EPA are now looking to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act to bring chemical regulation into the 21st century. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are among the scientific organizations calling for toxicity testing methods that are human-relevant, faster, and cheaper and that use fewer or no animals.
In its 2007 report, the NAS confirmed that scientific advances can "transform toxicity testing from a system based on whole-animal testing to one founded primarily on in vitro (non-animal) methods." Such an approach will improve efficiency, speed, and prediction for humans while cutting costs and reducing animal suffering. As it should, the newly introduced legislation supports the continued development and implementation of this shift toward non-animal methodologies.
As the case in the Gulf demonstrates, non-animal testing is the stuff of science—not "science fiction" as critics often contend—and it is surely the future of ensuring chemical safety.
Posted by Jessica Sandler, director of PETA's Regulatory Testing Division, and Dr. Kate Willett, PETA's science policy adviser
Update: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has written to National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins urging him to scrap plans to transfer more than 200 "retired" chimpanzees from the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research laboratory in Texas. He has also requested the return of 15 chimpanzees who have already been transferred.
"New Mexico wants to save these chimpanzees, who have already given so much of their lives to the American public as part of medical research studies," says the governor. "There is a compassionate and prudent alternative to the National Center for Research Resources' plan, and I feel strongly that we must save the chimpanzees."
Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico is also working hard to ensure that the chimpanzees are spared from further experiments. Stay tuned for more updates.
The folks at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they "retired" 288 chimpanzees—who had previously been used in Air Force gravity experiments—to the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) in New Mexico. I say this because NIH has now decided to "unretire" the surviving chimpanzees (more than 21 have died in the decade they've spent warehoused in cages at APF, including three who died by electrocution because of unsafe conditions). The animals will be sent to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) laboratory in Texas, where they will likely be subjected to cruel experiments.
SFBR might sound familiar to readers of this blog because it is the same laboratory where two baboons escaped from cages in May and attacked two employees. PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which then cited SFBR for failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma or physical harm as well as failure to provide animals with adequate and safe housing. SFBR had previously been cited twice—in 2009 and in February of this year—for failure to house animals in structurally sound enclosures in order to prevent them from escaping and injuring themselves and others. In one incident, a monkey escaped from a cage, got outside into the freezing cold, suffered from hypothermia, and later was euthanized as a result.
SFBR's "punishment" for these offenses? It gets more than 200 chimpanzees to confine, scare, poke, and prod.
Half of the chimpanzees at APF have been living in cages for at least a quarter of a century. As PETA Vice President Kathy Guillermo wrote today in a letter to NIH, it's time to truly retire these primates to a sanctuary, rather than sending them back to a laboratory where they are sure to endure tremendous physical and psychological trauma, possibly for the rest of their lives—which could last another quarter century or more.
Please take a minute to send your own letter to APF and let it know that "retirement" means living the rest of your life free from stress (and not confined to a cage).
Business as usual at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) has just cost the university a whopping $62,500. That's what KUMC has agreed to pay in fines after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found 160 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. This means that KUMC has the distinction of forking over one of the highest settlements ever paid by a laboratory for violating animal protection regulations.
But the cost for the animals was much higher. Monkeys at KUMC were so traumatized that they pulled out their own hair and paced their cages ceaselessly—which is what monkeys do when they're forced to live in tiny, barren spaces without anything to do day after day, year after year, and when the lab staff can't be bothered to provide the psychological enrichment that's required by law. Animals were also denied adequate veterinary care and even pain relief after surgery.
The USDA's citations also confirmed what we uncovered about KUMC last year: Experimenters weren't even providing an adequate rationale for using animals, as the law requires. PETA filed a complaint last December with university officials because KUMC still cuts up pigs for surgery practice, even though more sophisticated non-animal methods are available. Nearly every other medical school in America, including Harvard and Stanford, ended the use of animals long ago for a very good reason: Practicing human surgery on animals is kind of like learning to fly a jet by riding a bicycle.
In April, PETA asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds many of the animal experiments at the university, to demand a refund of thousands of dollars of grant money that had been spent on experiments that violate federal regulations. There's still no word on whether NIH plans to add to KUMC's fiscal woes.
We send our condolences today to Joyce Brabner, the widow of underground comic book genius Harvey Pekar, who recently died. We remember the days when Joyce visited our office in sparkly Wizard of Oz Dorothy slippers and colored ankle socks. She is a socially astute fighter for animal rights who created the classic Animal Rights Comics. The two-issue set of comic books is based on PETA's precedent-setting "Silver Spring monkeys" case, which resulted in the first arrest and criminal conviction of an animal experimenter in the U.S. on charges of cruelty to animals, the first confiscation of abused animals from a laboratory, and the first U.S. Supreme Court victory for animals in laboratories. Joyce recognized it as a landmark case—one that led to countless other undercover investigations—and so she decided to memorialize it.
If anyone out there has copies of the now out-of-print comics, please let us know. We have a set in our archives, but it would be nice to know that there are more copies in circulation. If there's enough interest, perhaps one day they will be reprinted. Joyce, from our hearts to yours, we wish you the best.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
"The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club." If, however, the fight club involves forcing mice to battle one another in a stupid and barbaric experiment, you know we're going to talk about it.
Recently, vivisectors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (sheep abuse ring a bell?) studied the effect of brawling on chemicals in the brain by creating a fighting tournament for mice. In the experiment, pairs of male mice were provoked into fighting while spectators experimenters watched. The "winning" mice didn't actually win: After three consecutive victories, they were killed and their brains were cut up.
Making unwilling participants fight in staged matches? Sounds more like Gladiator than Fight Club to me. Or a laboratory version of dogfighting in which our tax dollars fund the fights and the perpetrators are called "Doctor" instead of Michael Vick.
Forcing rodents to rumble is only the tip of the animal-testing iceberg. Anything goes in U.S. laboratories. Tens of millions of mice are burned, poisoned, cut open, and killed in laboratory experiments each year. There are no federal laws protecting mice (or rats, birds, or cold-blooded animals, for that matter) in laboratories, so these animals are often forced to endure excruciating experiments without being given any pain relief at all.
Mice are smart, sensitive, affectionate animals who feel pain and deserve consideration. To learn more about these exceptional animals, watch our video Who Cares About Mice and Rats?
Let's fight for the rights of mice and take action against cruel animal experiments today!
Written by Amy Skylark Elizabeth
If you've been holding your breath waiting for the day when rats are no longer shoved into tiny containers and forced to breathe chemicals for six hours a day for up to 90 days in order to test chemicals and products such as cigarettes, asbestos, popcorn butter flavoring, jet fuel, and household stain removers, you are probably blue in the face by now. But you may be able to breathe a sigh of relief soon.
Scientists have developed a new apparatus called a lung-on-a-chip that can be used to replace these cruel chemical tests. This artificial lung can mimic the physiology of the organ and can even "breathe."According to a story in New Scientist, the device, which behaves like a real lung, is an "encouraging sign that ethically acceptable and cheaper alternatives to animal testing may be on the way."
PETA's regulatory testing experts (or, as I call them, "really smart staffers") are working hard to reform the government's chemical testing practices and are trying to get government officials to implement modern technology like the lung-on-a-chip. You can help by urging your senators to require the use of alternatives to animal tests in government testing programs. It is the 21st century, after all.
Written by Heather Moore
Victory Update: Following a year of vigorous campaigning, PETA has learned that government officials have grounded plans for a cruel and ineffective radiation experiment on monkeys. Learn more about this victory for monkeys.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that NASA's plan to fund an experimenter who wants zap squirrel monkeys with massive amounts of radiation at Brookhaven National Laboratory is cruel and wrongheaded—but it clearly doesn't disqualify you, either!
Case in point: April Evans, a NASA aerospace engineer working on the International Space Station as a team lead, has quit her job over NASA's decision to irradiate non-human primates after 30 peaceful years without any space-related experiments on monkeys. Evans, a NASA Space Flight Awareness Honoree, wrote to Brookhaven director Samuel Aronson, explaining, "After much deliberation, I resigned from NASA because I could not support the scientific justification for this monkey radiobiology experiment." In the letter, Evans also encouraged the agency to develop better space radiation shielding to protect astronauts—instead of tormenting animals.
Evans' principled stance is in line with that of the European Space Agency, which has rejected the use of cruel and archaic experiments on monkeys—the kind that may violate federal guidelines here in the U.S. If you'd like to thank Evans for her commitment to justice, why not add your voice to the growing number of compassionate people calling for NASA to scrap its plans to torment monkeys?
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.