2023’s Biggest Victories for Animals in Labs and How PETA Made Them Happen

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In 2023, PETA’s dedicated team of scientists and other staff members worked full-time to shut down barbaric laboratories, advance non-animal tests, and expose the cruelty of experiments on animals.

They funded and designed experiments to show how non-animal tests can replace those done on animals, collaborated with members of Congress to end the use of animals in laboratories, spearheaded hard-hitting eyewitness exposés and public campaigns that have been pivotal in shifting public opinion against animal testing, and persuaded major corporations and universities around the world to abandon cruel animal tests in favor of modern, non-animal methods.

Check Out Some of PETA’s Biggest Victories in 2023 for Animals Used in Experiments

All year, we’ve been working—successfully—to improve conditions for animals in Colombia.

In February, prompted by PETA’s damning 18-month investigation into Caucaseco Scientific Research Center and its affiliated organizations in Colombia—including a decrepit monkey laboratory—a local environmental agency and the Colombian Office of the Attorney General seized 108 monkeys in poor health from the filthy facility, which was bankrolled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The survivors were sent to recover at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center.

monkeys at Caucaseco Scientific Research Center in Colombia

In April, local authorities seized 180 mice from Caucaseco—the only remaining animals still imprisoned there. The mice, who would have been used in experiments, are now under veterinary care at the Animal Welfare Center in Cali, Colombia.

Witnesses say that before being rescued, the mice lacked sufficient water, and our investigation revealed that some had resorted to cannibalism. Up to 30 mice were crowded into boxes designed for a maximum of five.

mice at Caucaseco Scientific Research Center in Colombia

These seizures from Caucaseco amounted to the largest animal rescue in Colombia’s history.

By July, after our major push, NIH had rescinded the eligibility of Caucaseco and its affiliated facility, the Malaria Vaccine and Development Center, to receive U.S. taxpayer money. This means it’s unlikely these laboratories will ever torment any other animals in pointless experiments again.

All this led to the introduction of a federal bill by representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Troy Nehls (R-TX). The bipartisan Cease Animal Research Grants Overseas Act—known as the CARGO ACT, HR 4757—would prohibit NIH from funding any animal experiments in foreign laboratories.

But we weren’t done yet. In August, after PETA shared with Colombia’s Universidad del Valle (Univalle) overwhelming evidence of the scientific invalidity and cruelty of the forced swim test—in which rats, mice, or other small animals are dropped into inescapable beakers filled with water and forced to swim for their lives—this top public university decided to ban the experiment.

forced swim test

Univalle, the most important research institution in southwest Colombia, set an example for other universities in Latin America to follow.

Here in the U.S., we announced in February that the U.S. Navy had sunk its decompression tests on sheep at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Documents obtained by PETA show that gruesome decompression sickness experiments on sheep funded by the U.S. Navy—which had been awarded more than $389,000 in taxpayer money—at the University of Wisconsin–Madison had been abruptly stopped up to two years ahead of schedule, following our letter to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

navy defense protest with victory text in yellow

The sheep formerly slated for these tests were spared the agony of cardiovascular collapse, spinal cord injury, and paralysis.

In March, snake blood and other horrors were nixed from the menu of armed forces attending Cobra Gold.

For the third year in a row, PETA received confirmation from a senior Thai military official that no animals would be killed in the survival training at Cobra Gold—a joint multinational military exercise held in Thailand and attended by the U.S. military.

Prior to PETA’s intervention, these drills were known to be barbaric, cruel, and potentially illegal, requiring troops to do the following:

  • Kill chickens with their bare hands
  • Consume live scorpions and tarantulas
  • Skin and eat live geckos
  • Decapitate cobras and drink their blood

A GIF of U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, participating in jungle survival training with instruction from service members of the Royal Thai Marine Corps as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Kingdom of Thailand, March 2, 2020. Marines are sitting with their mouths open and tongues out, getting cobra blood dripped onto their tongues.

The same month, after hearing from PETA, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) dropped a recommendation to conduct dental tests on animals.

The TFDA finalized a regulation that removes animal testing recommendations for companies wanting to make human dental health claims for marketing their food and beverage products.

Such testing included feeding rats sugar water and bacteria that caused dental decay, swabbing their mouths, feeding them the test food products, killing them, and dissecting their mouths.

The TFDA now requires only safe and effective human tests for this purpose. This decision followed e-mails to agency officials from more than 52,000 PETA supporters opposing animal experiments.

In April, PETA persuaded a medical school to stop maiming animals.

Following a PETA campaign lasting over 17 months, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, which oversees the College of Medicine (UTCOM), wrote to us announcing that UTCOM would stop using live animals in surgical and emergency medical residency training programs on its Chattanooga campus.

PETA protest at UTCOM

The decision came after, among other campaign actions, more than 97,000 PETA supporters wrote to university leadership urging an end to medical training drills in which pigs were mutilated.

In May, General Motors (GM) upgraded its animal testing policy to PETA’s gold standard.

Following discussions with PETA, GM announced an upgraded formal policy that prohibits the automaker from conducting or paying for any animal testing:

“GM does not conduct or commission the use of animals in tests for research purposes or in the development of our vehicles, either directly or indirectly and GM does not fund such tests.”

The automaker had stopped using animals in crash tests in 1993 after a PETA campaign, but it didn’t expressly prohibit paying others to conduct tests on animals until it agreed to that change following talks with us this year.

PETA fights to end car-crash tests on animalsAs part of our Heartbreak of America (a play on GM’s slogan at the time) campaign, PETA members and conscientious consumers across the country held dozens of protests, including ones in which they wore animal costumes and smashed GM cars. Following 18 months of our hard-hitting campaign, the carmaker ended its crash tests using live animals.

In June, one university was ordered to pay PETA $400,000 after hiding videos of human infidelity experiments on voles.

In a resounding victory for transparency and accountability, a court ordered Oregon Health & Science University to pay PETA more than $400,000 after the university went to extreme and illegal lengths to hide videos of cruel experiments on voles, during which the animals were given the equivalent of 15 bottles of wine a day in attempts to draw conclusions about the impact of human alcohol consumption on infidelity.

Following in GM’s tracks, Ford Motor Company slammed the brakes on animal testing in July.

After relentless pressure from PETA, actor Lily Tomlin, and more than 125,000 dedicated supporters, we received confirmation that Ford Motor Company would definitively slam the brakes on its animal testing.

Following our rigorous 21-month campaign, Ford updated its public policy at PETA’s request to close all loopholes that previously allowed the funding of animal testing.

In a letter to PETA, Ford went even further by updating its Supplier Code of Conduct, requiring that vendors to the automaker “[d]o not to use animals for testing nor require sub-contractors to do so,” and made its “expectations [against animal testing] explicit in rules for university research project[s] conducted on Ford’s behalf.”

In August, a Texas university ended its use of live pigs in OB/GYN training.

In a win for pigs, physicians, and patients, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center confirmed it would no longer use live animals for invasive medical procedures in its obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) physician residency training program, following pressure from PETA.

Happy piglets eat grass 

Previously, this OB/GYN program had subjected at least 13 live pigs to laparoscopic hysterectomies, retroperitoneal dissections, and tissue morcellations. However, following requests from PETA, the university chose to end this cruel practice, highlighting a commendable alignment with ethical considerations and modern, animal-free simulation training approaches.

In early November, PETA announced a lifesaving donation to an Albanian program.

As many as 18 sheep each year will no longer be cut apart and killed in medical training courses in Albania, thanks to PETA’s donation of two state-of-the-art TraumaMan surgical simulators to that country’s national Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) program.

Albania joined 22 other countries that have ended the crude use of live dogs, pigs, goats, and sheep in ATLS medical trainings with help from PETA. Since 2012, we’ve donated 124 TraumaMan simulators, worth more than $3 million in total.

Later in November, PETA announced that a U.S. Army–funded brain damage experiment on ferrets had ended more than six months ahead of schedule at Michigan’s Wayne State University after the military branch heard our public plea to end such testing.

Ferrets will no longer be purposely bombarded with radio waves, killed, and dissected in this gruesome experiment, which ridiculously purported to model Havana syndrome in humans.

white ferret on blue fabric

Wayne State apparently refunded more than $512,000 in August due to the grant’s cancellation.

PETA is urging the Army to stop subjecting any species to crude and pointless weapon-wounding tests and switch to animal-free methods that are actually relevant to human health.

Progress in 2023 for Animals Used in Regulatory Testing

Regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and similar agencies around the world, require tests to assess the toxicity of products such as pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and medical devices before they’re put on the market. Although toxicity testing has historically been conducted on animals in crude tests developed decades ago, things are changing, thanks in part to the work of PETA scientists.

A paper coauthored by PETA scientists expanded the availability of human lung slices and reduced the use of animal tests.

The paper was coauthored by PETA Science Consortium International e.V. and has revolutionized the field of inhalation research and reduced reliance on tests that presently kill approximately a million animals each year.

It describes a study, funded in part by the Science Consortium, showing that frozen human lung slices work as well as fresh ones to assess the toxicity of inhaled chemicals.

Given the scarcity of donated human lungs, the ability to use previously frozen tissue has expanded the availability of human lung slices that can be used to test the effects of chemicals, drugs, and other substances on the lungs instead of using animals.

rats in inhalation tube in laboratory
Rats are squeezed into inhalation tubes.

PETA scientists highlighted the use of human cell–based approaches for inhalation testing.

Complementing the use of human lung slices, in vitro cell-based models are another tool for replacing the use of animals in inhalation toxicity testing. In another coauthored paper, PETA scientists demonstrated how non-animal, cell-based methods can be used to predict the health effects of inhaled chemicals, rather than using tests in which rats are confined to small tubes and forced to inhale toxic chemicals.

Funded by the Science Consortium, the study received great interest from the inhalation community, including coverage in Chemical Watch News and Insight, a major science news outlet.

PETA scientists coauthored a paper in a move toward testing pesticides without using live rabbits.

The paper was coauthored with the EPA and other collaborators on methods that can replace the use of live rabbits to test the effects of pesticides on human eyes.

It describes 29 pesticide formulations that were tested using methods that are as good as or better than the crude Draize eye irritation test, in which chemicals are applied to live rabbits’ eyes.

rabbit used in eye-irritation testing

The evidence presented in this paper could be used by the EPA to officially allow companies to assess pesticides without using live rabbits!

The Science Consortium sent award winners to be trained in non-animal toxicology testing.

The Science Consortium awarded 21 scientists travel grants to attend scientific conferences and workshops around the globe, including the 12th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Summer School on Non-Animal Approaches in Science, and hands-on training courses that show scientists how to avoid the use of rats, rabbits, and other animals in chemical testing.

The Science Consortium awarded 21 scientists travel grants to attend scientific conferences and workshops around the globe

Researchers were provided with cutting-edge tools to support animal-free testing methods.

The Science Consortium donated equipment worth $120,000 in total to two organizations that develop or conduct exclusively non-animal tests.

piece equipment for animal-free testing donated by a peta science group

One piece of equipment is used to assess the potential of chemicals to cause skin allergies or changes to DNA, and the other is used to assess the likelihood that inhaled chemicals will cause an allergic reaction in the lungs. Both pieces replace the use of animals in painful tests.

piece of equipment for animal-free testing donated by a peta science group

In partnership with Epithelix, the Science Consortium also awarded a researcher at Trinity College Dublin $15,000 in redeemable Epithelix tissues to test the effects of cigarette smoke and bacterial infections on lung diseases. Epithelix’s three-dimensional human tissue models reconstruct different regions of the respiratory tract and can be used to test cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical device extracts, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and household products instead of testing on animals.

PETA scientists promoted animal-free methods at toxicology conferences around the world.

PETA scientists promoted animal-free toxicity testing approaches at dozens of scientific conferences, including the Society of Toxicology 62nd Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and the 12th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Niagara Falls, Canada.

PETA Scientists at the 2023 SOT meeting in Nashville

At these events, PETA scientists chaired sessions and delivered presentations on topics such as replacing the use of fish in ecotoxicity testing, rabbits in eye irritation testing, and rats in inhalation toxicity testing.

They also presented on human cell–based approaches for testing the effects of inhaled chemicals at a global inhalation toxicology conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, and presented the keynote lecture at a biotech conference in Paris.

PETA scientists launched a new webinar series on non-animal testing.

The first webinar in a new series co-organized by the Science Consortium, the EPA, the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation garnered almost 1,000 registrants interested in learning about non-animal testing.

Together, we can achieve even more victories for animals used in experiments in 2024.

Please send a polite e-mail to your members of Congress urging them to mandate that NIH stop throwing away taxpayer money on experiments on animals and instead focus on modern, human-relevant research methods.

If you don’t live in the U.S., you can still stand up for science by only buying products from companies that don’t test on animals or use animal ingredients:

Note: PETA supports animal rights, opposes all forms of animal exploitation, and educates the public on those issues. PETA does not directly or indirectly participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office or any political party.

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