PETA to District Attorney: Charge UNC-Chapel Hill for Apparent Animal Welfare Crimes

Published by Keith Brown.

PETA has asked North Carolina’s Chatham County district attorney to file charges following a slew of new federal reports that show that the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, which has a decades-long history of abusing animals in its laboratories, continues to mistreat them.  

We detail the ongoing horror inside these laboratories in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), calling for an investigation by that agency. The UNC-Chapel Hill administration also heard from us in a letter demanding the university finally hold itself accountable. 

PETA uncovered reports detailing 33 violations of federal animal welfare guidelines in UNC-Chapel Hill laboratories between 2017 and January 2022. Two of the incidents—the death of a pig and severe burns on three guinea pigs—are likely also violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.   

Here are just some of the incidents from the reports we uncovered:  

  • UNC-Chapel Hill experimenters failed to give adequate pain relief to more than 250 mice and rats used in painful and invasive procedures. 
  • Laboratory staff failed to open the pressure relief valve on an anesthesia machine on an intubated pig. As a result, the pig’s chest and abdomen distended and he stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest. Experimenters resuscitated and then killed him. 
  • Experimenters also failed to monitor heating pads during surgery, causing third-degree burns across the backs of three guinea pigs. 
  • Experimenters gave an improper dose of influenza virus to 62 mice, who either then died or had to be euthanized.
  • In a procedure akin to embalming in humans, an experimenter attempted to inject a chemical solution into the vascular system of a mouse who was awake and who hadn’t been given adequate pain relief.  
  • On two occasions, staff failed to notice that chlorine had contaminated some fish tanks, killing 192 zebrafish. 

The reports also detail UNC-Chapel Hill experimenters’ longstanding habit of going rogue and performing unapproved procedures as well as repeatedly breaking the rules despite warnings, signaling a long history of chronic violations of basic animal welfare guidelines:  

  • On at least six occasions, more than 50 mice had enormous tumors, had low bodyweight, or were subjected to lethal radiation or other experimental procedures when experimenters let tests continue longer than approved. 
  • On four separate occasions, one particular experimenter allowed the suffering of mice with large tumors, extreme lethargy, and weight loss to extend far longer than tests called for, despite repeated warnings and retraining. This experimenter has faced six disciplinary actions over five years.  
  • An experimenter subjected mice to an unapproved procedure in which blood was drawn from a vessel behind the eye. One of the mice died, and three others were euthanized. This experimenter also falsified records and was involved in a separate incident in which mice were improperly euthanized. 

A Long and Sordid History at UNC-Chapel Hill 

There’s a trail of death and suffering in UNC-Chapel Hill laboratories that stretches back decades. PETA conducted two undercover investigations into the university’s laboratories, one beginning in 2002 and the other in 2003. Our investigators found chronic understaffing, incompetence, indifference, neglect, and outright cruelty. Enough is enough! 

UNC-Chapel Hill raked in nearly half a billion in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health in 2021. About half of that goes to animal testing. Yet experimenters at the school cannot or will not comply with even the most basic animal welfare guidelines.  

It’s time to turn off the tap and redirect money into human-relevant, animal-free testing methods.   

Please TAKE ACTION and join thousands of PETA supporters who have already called on Congress to stop throwing away taxpayer money on cruel, useless animal experiments and instead focus on modern, non-animal research methods. 

Written by Keith Brown

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind