Update: Following reports of horrific cruelty at the taxpayer-funded U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC)—including leaving animals to suffer, starve, and die—the federal budget for the 2016 fiscal year, signed into law by President Obama, requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make plans to address cruelty to animals at MARC and other federal agricultural-research facilities. The government will withhold more than $57 million from the USDA until the agency certifies in writing that it has complied with the requirement.
There is another hopeful development: Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate to amend the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to include farmed animals used for agricultural experiments at federal facilities. Currently, farmed animals are exempt from the minimal protections offered under the AWA. We hope the AWA will be expanded to include all farmed animals used in experiments—not just those in federal laboratories.
Please speak up for animals who suffer and die in cruel experiments designed to increase the meat industry’s profits. Contact your legislators and demand an end to this abuse today!
The following was originally posted on January 20, 2015:
Prompted by a shocking front-page New York Times exposé published today that revealed cruel practices at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) and the fact that thousands of animals have been left to suffer, starve, and die from treatable maladies in experimental breeding programs, PETA sent an urgent letter this morning calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to suspend the facility’s operations immediately and shut down the taxpayer-funded program.
In her letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk likened the crude, cruel, and indefensible experiments at the center to “a twisted novel about a mad scientist.”
The comparison isn’t hard to see, given these facts:
- Infant animals have been left to die slowly, exposed to the elements, after reckless breeding experiments left them deformed, weak, and helpless.
- Untrained staff members operate on animals, injured and sick animals are left untreated, and whistle-blowing is punished.
- Female sheep were injected with male hormones, which deforms their lambs’ genitals.
- Staggering numbers of female calves have also been born with deformed vaginas, yet MARC has continued to push for harmful breeding practices, increasing the rate of twins and triplets, leading to a 16.5 percent mortality rate among the calves.
- At least 6,500 animals have starved to death at the facility, which received $22.7 million in funding last year.
- A young cow, whose head was “locked in a cagelike device to keep her immobile,” was repeatedly mounted by six bulls for hours until her back legs were broken and “[h]er body was just torn up.” She died a few hours later.
- As reported by The New York Times, the USDA “does not closely monitor the center’s use of animals, or even enforce its own rules requiring careful scrutiny of experiments.”
- The death rates at MARC shock even ranchers and farmers.
Adding insult to literal injury, the lambs, pigs, cows, and other animals suffering and dying at MARC are not even considered “animals” under the federal Animal Welfare Act, as farm animals used in agricultural experimentation are explicitly excluded from the law’s definition of “animal.” As a result, the animals at MARC are deprived of the minimal protections afforded by the act and are completely at the apparently non-existent mercy of the facility’s experimenters.
MARC operates behind a thick veil of secrecy. Now that the veil has been lifted, the USDA must listen to the American people, who have, as The New York Times asserts, demonstrated “a gathering public concern for the well-being of animals that has penetrated even the meat industry,” and shut this hellhole down.