The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill receives millions in taxpayer dollars, yet, as PETA revealed, it did not provide even the minimal standard of care to animals it used in federally funded research.
PETA conducted two undercover investigations of UNC–Chapel Hill's animal laboratories, from February 2002 to January 2003 and from January through November 2003. During the second investigation, we hoped to find some improvement, but the university hadn't changed its cruel practices, and animals continued to suffer.
In our first investigation, a PETA investigator who worked as an animal care technician found that chronic understaffing, incompetence, indifference, neglect, and outright cruelty caused rats and mice to be denied basic needs, including adequate space, food, water, and veterinary care. Some were even denied a humane death. Many of the animals were subjected to severe trauma, prolonged suffering, and agonizingly slow and grisly deaths.
A year after our first investigation began, a PETA undercover investigator went back inside UNC–Chapel Hill laboratories, hoping that UNC had cleaned up its act. But contrary to what UNC had assured the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government agency that investigated our charges, we still found that animals were severely crowded, left without veterinary care, and killed inhumanely.
During our first investigation, PETA's investigator documented—almost daily—the failure or refusal of researchers and their staff to meet basic animal care and use standards.
Animals at UNC were routinely denied veterinary care, including in the following instances:
Many animals were denied euthanasia and left to suffer for days, including in the following instances:
Extremely crowded cages—such as those in the following cases—were the norm:
Animals were deprived of food and water. Rats used in alcohol experiments at UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies were given nothing to eat or drink but a liquid diet consisting of alcohol, sucrose water, and some nutrients for two weeks or more in order to force them to drink alcohol—which they would never do under normal circumstances. The rats were so hungry that they began eating their own feces and possibly their bedding. A researcher hypothesized that a rat whom our investigator found emaciated and foaming at the mouth had gotten drunk, eaten his bedding, and choked when it became wet and swelled in his trachea or esophagus.
PETA's investigator complained to both supervisors and management about these abuses before finally alerting the IACUC, the university oversight committee that approves animal experiments and is ultimately responsible for the care and use of animals at UNC.
UNC animal care personnel covered their tracks by removing sick animals from the building in order to avoid trouble from and/or detection by the IACUC. Just days after the IACUC visited UNC's animal laboratories, animals were left to suffer as "normal"—mice "raw and bloody from scratching" and "bleeding from the inner ear" were denied veterinary care and euthanasia, which had been recommended.
PETA filed a complaint with NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) detailing each violation of the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. It took OLAW two years to issue its report on our complaint, but the government agreed with PETA that employees were improperly trained and caused animals pain and distress while taking blood, pumping their stomachs full of substances such as ethanol, and attempting to gas them or break their necks and that they committed many other violations. Click here to read NIH OLAW's summary of its 30-page report about our first UNC investigation.
UNC told NIH that most of its problems with providing proper animal care were caused by the supervisor in that laboratory. UNC made a big display of hiring a new supervisor who, it claimed, would not allow the same things to happen that had happened during our first investigation.
Our second investigator, hired to work in the same building and on some of the same experiments from January through November 2003, found that UNC had lied outright to NIH about cleaning up its act and discovered that conditions were just as hellish for the animals. Among other horrors, the investigator found the following:
When our investigator reported the toe amputations to the new supervisor, the supervisor said, "Stick to the script. … I just can't be hearin' this. You know that, right?" Once again, UNC had shown that it wouldn't comply with the government's extremely minimal care standards for using mice and rats in experiments. So PETA filed another formal, detailed complaint with NIH [link to pdf titled: UNC Law] insisting that it act immediately to investigate and close down UNC's animal laboratories. Once again, NIH released a report corroborating PETA's allegations.
That UNC thought it could get away with treating animals so cruelly shows an arrogance that permeates many universities that are given exorbitant amounts of our tax money and trusted to "do what's right."
Together, we can overturn the arbitrary exclusion of mice, rats, and birds from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Excluding these species from the only federal law that offers any sort of protection for animals in laboratories causes suffering to millions of animals every year. Please write to your members of Congress and ask them to amend the AWA to include rats, mice, and birds. These animals are intelligent, social beings who deserve protection just as much as the dogs, rabbits, and hamsters, who are currently included in the AWA, do.Please also consider making a donation to support PETA's vital work to stop this cruelty.
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.