PETA Calls on U.S. Dept of Defense and NIH to Reconsider Business With Marshall Farms

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Update (May 8, 2024): PETA is calling on two federal agencies—the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health—to reexamine their business dealings with Marshall Farms, also known as Marshall BioResources, the largest supplier of dogs and ferrets in the U.S. to government-run and private laboratories across the country after an industrial mixer inside its facility amputated an employee’s right hand.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has levied a penalty of $18,282 against Marshall Farms for lax workplace safety procedures that contributed to the incident. The bottom line: Marshall Farms is dangerous for humans and deadly for other animals. Read below about the pathogens that we found were widespread in its warehouses, where thousands of animals are kept in decrepit conditions. Then take action to end the use of animals in experiments.  

PETA has uncovered the Marshall Farms’ own documents and learned from insiders that dangerous and deadly viruses and bacteria have run rampant through the New York company’s warehouses, in which cats, ferrets, and pigs are bred. PETA has filed a complaint calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate the company’s facilities—which are among the world’s largest breeders of dogs, cats, ferrets, pigs, and other animals for sale to laboratories—for possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Pathogens’ Paradise: Crowded, Stressful Conditions in Cat Colonies

During a 2022 inspection, a veterinarian with the USDA counted more than 1,150 cats and kittens in Marshall Farms’ breeding operation. According to the company’s  “health monitoring reports,” which PETA obtained, cats in its buildings—including the “barrier buildings” that attempt to limit the entry of pathogens and even promise laboratories “specific pathogen-free” cats—have tested positive at alarming rates for life-threatening bacteria, particularly the following:

  • Sixty-one percent of the cats in Marshall’s conventional building and 21% of the cats in its barrier buildings tested positive for Bordetella bronchiseptica, which can cause upper respiratory disease in cats. In kittens or other animals who are severely stressed, the infection can result in life-threatening pneumonia. Confining large groups of cats in crowded conditions—as at Marshall’s facilities—exacerbates the spread of this bacteria.
  • Ninety-two percent of cats in Marshall’s conventional building and 54% of those in its barrier buildings tested positive for Pasteurellaceae, which can cause ear infections, eye infections, nasal and sinus infections, joint infections, infection of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord, and pneumonia, which is often fatal. The bacteria can spread through coughing, sneezing, or bite wounds via cats’ saliva, and the animals may suffer from abscesses or septicemia, which can be fatal. Fighting among cats—which would be common under the stressful conditions in Marshall’s facilities—increases the likelihood of transmission.
  • Thirty-one percent of cats in Marshall’s conventional building and 25% of those in its barrier buildings tested positive for group G β-hemolytic streptococci, which can cause upper respiratory tract disease, abscesses, pneumonia, urogenital infections, septicemia, and meningitis. Confining large groups of cats in crowded conditions—as at Marshall’s facilities—exacerbates the spread of this pathogen.

Outbreak of Canine Distemper in Ferret-Breeding Facility

Disease apparently wasn’t limited to the cats. According to insider reports, an outbreak of canine distemper in a Marshall Farms warehouse last year swept through the facility and may have exposed 250,000 baby ferrets to the virus, which causes diarrhea, discharge from the eyes and nose, open-mouth breathing, dehydration, fever, and death. A December 2022 report posted by the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians revealed that the company also shipped ferrets affected by the disease to “many locations” in the U.S. and Canada—including large pet store chains—that reported receiving “acutely sick and dying” animals.

Ferret on blue cloth

‘Mini Pigs,’ Maximum Suffering

Marshall Farms’ “health monitoring reports” documented similar problems in the three buildings in which the company breeds “mini pigs.” According to the reports, 60% of pigs across all three buildings tested positive for porcine rotavirus. This virus can cause diarrhea in pigs who are nursing or have just been weaned. The diarrhea associated with this virus can cause dehydration, which is a significant concern for piglets.

Marshall Farms Is No Stranger to Animal Suffering

In addition to profiting from the sale of sentient beings who will suffer in experiments, Marshall Farms also sells animal blood, animal-blood products, and animal tissue. With facilities in the U.S., Europe, India, China, South Korea, and Japan, Marshall is a global purveyor of misery and death.

In the U.S., Marshall has been cited for housing dogs and ferrets inside filthy, decrepit wire cages in buildings teeming with mice and flies and failing to provide animals with adequate veterinary care.

Good Science Isn’t Cruel: Support PETA’s Research Modernization Deal

Animals are bred at places like Marshall Farms because laboratories buy them for experiments, even though experiments on animals are a colossal failure. Ninety-five percent of all new drugs that test safe and effective in animal tests fail or cause harm in human clinical trials.

PETA scientists have developed a strategy for replacing the use of animals in experiments with superior, human-relevant methods. We’re calling on congressional leaders to embrace PETA scientists’ revolutionary, commonsense Research Modernization Deal and direct our federal health agencies to stop harming animals and wasting money on experiments that don’t work. If you live in the U.S., contact your members of Congress and ask them to help bring science here into the 21st century.

This action is limited to U.S. residents.

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