Written by PETA
Remember the University of Connecticut story from a couple of weeks ago? Long story short: the USDA fined the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC) for seven violations of the Animal Welfare Act, stemming from experiments in which a guy named David Waitzman bolted restraint devices to monkeys' heads, drilled holes in their skulls, attached electrodes to their brains, and fastened small wire coils directly to their eyeballs.
Well we just took it a step further and filed a formal complaint with state auditors Kevin P. Johnston and Robert G. Jaekle urging them to investigate possible violations of the University of Connecticut's Code of Conduct as well as the possible misuse of public funds and property by the UCHC, its institutional Animal Care Committee (ACC), and UCHC animal experimenter David Waitzman.
Based on UConn graduate student Justin Goodman's 2005 complaints, the USDA confirmed that Waitzman was consistently in violation of laws governing the care and use of animals in research. Waitzman had received more than $1.7 million in federal funds to conduct the experiments, and part of his salary, the entire salaries of his support staff, and his overhead expenses were funded by state taxpayers, who will also have to pick up the tab for the $5,532 fine. Also, UCHC officials made false public statements regarding Waitzman's experiments.
UConn's Code of Conduct requires that faculty and staff abide by all federal, state, and institutional laws and regulations regarding the use of animals. However, since March 2003, UCHC has been cited for more than 65 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act related to the treatment of monkeys, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, and rabbits at the facility. These violations include failure to employ personnel who were qualified to handle nonhuman primates, thus causing physical harm to the animals; failure to consider alternatives to painful procedures; failure to provide appropriate sedatives to animals; failure to painlessly euthanize a monkey who experienced severe tremors and seizures for more than six months; and conducting unauthorized experiments.
Here’s what PETA VP Bruce Friedrich had to say on the issue, "UConn has been torturing animals, making a mockery of its Code of Conduct, and squandering taxpayers' money in the process, UCHC's negligence and lack of oversight led directly to the prolonged suffering and deaths of animals, and we're calling on the state to impose all appropriate disciplinary measures."
I’ll keep you posted as things progress . . .
All day today, PETA protesters and hundreds of members of the public stood outside the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia, to call for vigorous prosecution of Michael Vick and the three other men charged in this horrific dogfighting case. Although this story is the first glimpse for many people of exactly what dogfighting is all about, the real tragedy here is that the kind of abuse detailed in Vick's indictment is as widespread as it is horrific. In the last year alone, PETA has responded to more than 14,000 calls and e-mails regarding other dogfighting and individual cruelty-to-animals cases. It's great that there has been so much outrage over this case, and we're certainly going to keep pushing to make sure that it is treated with the utmost seriousness by the courts—as well as by Vick's sponsors and the NFL—but the next step is going to be getting policymakers and law enforcement officers to treat all cases of dogfighting and animal cruelty the same way that they have been prosecuting this case, which happens to be under scrutiny from the media.
The good news is that this is already beginning to happen on the federal level. According to a press release from Senator John Kerry's office today, the senator has announced that he is "introducing legislation to finally eliminate dogfighting, which has been targeted by federal and state laws but by all accounts is more popular than ever." A copy of the proposed bill can be found here, and you can read our thank you letter to Senator Kerry and expression of support for the bill here.
As regular readers of this blog will know, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk is a huge fan of Formula 1 racing. Which means that she is incredibly knowledgeable about things like who has the best pit crew or which motor oil is better. Well, with the nation focused on dogfighting right now following the Michael Vick indictment, a Castrol Motor Oil ad that has been running on SPEED TV which appears to glorify the blood sport has been rightly upsetting a lot of animal lovers. Here's what Ingrid wrote to the company:
"As you know, Michael Vick, NIKE, and the NFL are in the deserved hot seat now for not immediately resigning, pulling ads, and pulling Mr. Vick, respectively. Your ad is "a fight to the death" in a back alley. Everyone realizes that cars don't fight to the death, dogs are made to. It has a sign saying "FIGHT" on the makeshift fence and on your site it refers to it as the "sickest" contest. … I have used your product for decades, even loved smelling it in the old days at the racetrack before synthetics came along, and hate to see a furor over Castrol. Thank you. Ingrid Newkirk, President, PETA"
After Ingrid contacted Castrol about the ad, the company immediately responded by assuring us that that while their ad agency was thinking "boxing match," they recognized that the imagery associated with the text implied a dogfight, and they're already working to revise their commercial so that no one will get the impression that dogfighting is something to be anything other than horrified by. With the massive attention to this issue that Vick's case has created, I'm hoping that this will be just one in a long chain of events that will see the blood sport condemned, prosecuted, and ultimately wiped out for good. Thanks, Castrol, for doing the right thing—and thanks to everyone who contacted us about this.
We've been getting a lot of calls from people asking what we're going to do about some new websites that are being passed around, called KittyBeef.com and PuppyBeef.com, which are purporting to sell prime cuts from kittens and puppies at discount prices. Well, the simple answer is … we're not really going to do all that much about it at all. In fact, I kind of wish we'd thought of the idea ourselves. For anyone who's horrified by the concept of having puppy chops or kitten nuggets for dinner, I hope they'll go just one tiny step further in their outrage and ask themselves how that's any different from chowing down on pork chops or chicken.
At the risk of getting a little rhetorical here, animals killed for our kitchens are just as capable of suffering as the animals we keep in our homes. They're just as smart, just as loving, and the prospect of the horrors that are inflicted on them by the meat industry keeps me up at night and fills me with the same anguish as reports of people who chain their dogs or torture their cats.
PETA Files reader Dave Cortright passed this hilarious Onion video on to me and I just had to share.
The sad thing is that animal experiments just as absurd as this fictional one still take place. Take smoking/nicotine experiments, for example. We know that smoking is harmful to human health; we don’t need to shove animals into inhalation chambers or dose pregnant rats with huge amounts of nicotine to confirm it. There are countless examples like this, but this was supposed to be a lighthearted entry, so I’ll stop now . . .
Anyway, if you haven’t seen Testing 1, 2, 3 yet, give it a look and let me know what you think.
I got a real kick out of this Bizarro comic someone scanned from their newspaper and sent in the other day, and the wonderful Dan Piraro, the longtime PETA supporter and animal rights advocate who writes the strip, was gracious enough to send me a high-quality version to put on the blog. Thanks, Dan!
Do you really need a letter from PETA and an official ban from your school administration to figure out what's wrong with throwing live chickens onto a basketball court during a game? In the case of the moronic Kansas State fans who did exactly that during a game against rivals KU, the answer, of course, is yes, and despite my tone of outraged disbelief, I can't honestly say I'm all that surprised. Especially given the attitude of KU Coach Bill Self, whose reaction to watching animal abuse take place in front of him was that he was glad he didn’t get hit by a chicken himself:
"My first year here one of them hit me. I'm glad we were on the other side of the court this year. It didn't upset me. That's tradition here that's gone on many years, I guess."
The good news is that, after receiving a letter from PETA, Kansas State has banned this tradition, and the story has received a lot of positive pickup in sports press. But seriously, how embarrassing is it to attend a school where your handbook has to have a whole section devoted to explaining why you shouldn't throw chickens at people?
The high school I went to was a small Catholic school in DC called St. Anselm's Abbey School, which was run by Benedictine monks. Although it was pretty stressful academically—and kind of traumatizing that there were no girls there—the experience was one of the best of my life, in no small part because of the powerful example of wisdom and kindness that all of the monks provided, both in their teaching and in their daily life. (I also really liked the fact that we had a ping pong table in our senior lounge, but that's a different story.) But the point here is, as those of you who have seen the huge breaking investigation on the front page of our website will have guessed, that my personal experience with the genuine compassion that's a fundamental part of the Catholic monastic tradition has made it even more difficult for me to try to comprehend the tragic blindness to horrifying cruelty that is shown by the monks at the Mepkin Abbey, who run an egg factory farm to fund their South Carolina monastery.
One of the worst parts of this video for me is when a monk compares the process of forced molting to a fast that he and his brethren practice to show their devotion to God. The difference—for the benefit of any Mepkin Abbey monks who happen to be reading this—is that a fast is a voluntary religious practice, while forced molting is an excruciating torture in which chickens who are already crammed together in cages so small that they barely have room to spread their wings are starved for up to two weeks to shock their bodies into another laying cycle.
Before I get too carried away here, the point I want to make is that, while torturing birds is particularly reprehensible when you find out that the people who are doing it should damn well know better (because, for instance, they're monks, for God's sake), the truth is that most of the horrific practices documented in our investigation are industry standard. If you're looking for something to give up this Lent, please think seriously about giving up eggs. You can always give up chocolate next year.
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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.