PETA Files Groundbreaking Suit Against NIH, HHS Over Sepsis Experiments on Animals

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Update (March 23, 2023): Nice try, NIH.

A federal court has refused the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) request to dismiss PETA’s first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging the agency’s funding of sepsis experiments on animals. The decision confirms that we’ll have our day in court to prove that pouring tax money into these hideous experiments—in the face of overwhelming evidence that animals are poor models for human sepsis—violates the agency’s legal obligation to fund research that will actually benefit human health.

You can tell NIH what you think of subjecting animals to cruel and useless sepsis experiments by taking action below.

Published September 21, 2021, by Elena Waldman. Last updated March 23, 2023.

PETA’s pushing back against useless and cruel sepsis experiments on animals in a landmark lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIH Acting Director Lawrence Tabak, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The lawsuit alleges that funding sepsis tests on animals—despite decades of failures, wasted taxpayer dollars, and mountains of evidence that animals are poor models for sepsis research—violates the agencies’ legal obligation to reduce the number of animals used in experiments, minimize the suffering of animals, and fund research for the benefit of human health.

PETA activists spoke with commuters during rush hour, explaining that NIH’s useless sepsis experiments on mice are not only cruel but also a waste of taxpayer money.

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a condition marked by the body’s extreme response to infection. It leads to one in three hospital deaths, killing nearly 270,000 Americans in a typical year. In light of these sepsis-related deaths in the U.S. and as a self-described “steward” of medical research, NIH should be prioritizing research relevant to treating sepsis in humans.

While Sepsis Takes Lives, Experiments on Animals Waste Valuable Time and Money

Before slapping NIH with the lawsuit, PETA sent the agency a comprehensive scientific and legal report outlining why its funding of sepsis experiments is not only bad science but also potentially unlawful.

Sepsis tests on animals have consistently failed to lead to effective treatments. Even Collins lamented the “heartbreaking loss of decades of research and billions of dollars” in the development of 150 drugs that successfully treated sepsis in mice but failed to do so in humans. NIH has known since at least 2013—from a groundbreaking study that took a decade to complete and involved dozens of researchers from institutions across the country—that sepsis does not affect humans as it does mice.

Collins responded: “No wonder drugs designed for the mice failed in humans: they were, in fact, treating different conditions!” In addition, at least 15 peer-reviewed publications over the past 18 years have described how sepsis in humans fundamentally differs from sepsis in other animals.

Mice Suffer in Freakish Sepsis Tests

Congress has also directed NIH to support research that doesn’t use animals, that reduces the number of animals used, and that reduces the pain and distress caused to animals. In sepsis tests, experimenters inject animals with toxins or feces, cut them open in invasive surgeries, force-feed them harmful bacteria, or make them inhale a bacterial “slurry.” The animals endure fever, chills, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, lethargy, disorientation, shock, multiple organ failure, and, eventually, death.

Urge NIH to Stop Funding Cruel Sepsis Tests on Mice and Other Animals

NIH has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on cruel experiments that have repeatedly failed. We’ve said it countless times, and we’ll say it again—it’s time to replace archaic experiments on animals with human-relevant research, such as in vitro experiments using human cells, experiments using donated human tissue, computer modeling, and other such cruelty-free methods.

Speak up for mice and other animals who are mutilated and killed in sepsis experiments. Urge NIH to quit funding these tests:

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