Why a $5,000 USDA Fine Isn’t Enough to Stop UC-Davis From Tormenting Animals in Laboratories

Published by PETA.

Animals in laboratories at the University of California–Davis (UC-Davis) are trapped inside a living nightmare. Over the past five years, the school has been cited for 15 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including multiple incidents in which monkeys escaped from their enclosures—and died from subsequent injuries—and even failure to provide basic veterinary care. Cruelty, neglect, and sheer incompetence have left monkeys, rabbits, sheep, llamas, cows, and other animals completely vulnerable.

UC-Davis has a lengthy history of violating the minimal federal regulations governing the treatment of animals in laboratories:

  • A lamb died after being improperly transported with a larger sheep who crushed the young animal to death. UC-Davis received an “official warning” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for this incident.
  • Several primates became trapped or sustained severe injuries, including broken legs, when laboratory staff failed to secure cage dividers or so-called “squeeze mechanisms.” One monkey had to be euthanized because of her injuries.
  • A transport enclosure was insufficient, leading to the escape of a female monkey. She was later tranquilized and then euthanized because of internal bleeding from the ordeal.
  • A rabbit who was being used in an experimental surgery died on the operating table when experimenters failed to use equipment correctly.

The school’s stubborn refusal to comply with federal laws has finally resulted in a $5,000 fine against the university. This very rare step indicates the seriousness of the misconduct at UC-Davis. The USDA regulates more than 10,000 entities under the AWA. In the last fiscal year, only 13 paid fines—which means that UC-Davis is among the 0.1 percent of the worst violators of this law. And this isn’t even the university’s first financial penalty. On September 29, 2005, it was cited and fined $4,815 by the USDA after seven rhesus macaque monkeys baked to death in the room where they were caged.

Unfortunately, this incident proves that even the worst violators of the AWA often escape accountability. In 2016, UC-Davis received more than $234 million in taxpayer funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and approximately half of that was used in cruel and worthless experiments on animals. A fine of $5,000 is merely a rounding error in the university’s budget and will do little to deter the school from continuing to mistreat animals. Multiple federal audits of the USDA have found that the agency’s weak penalties are hindering its ability to enforce compliance with federal law, as many laboratories simply view the paltry fines as a cost of doing business. And now that the agency is considering a disastrous new program to outsource some of its inspection responsibilities, this broken system could get even worse.

Help End Cruel Experiments on Animals

Since its founding in 1980, PETA has called for an end to the federal gravy train that funnels billions of tax dollars each year into cruel and antiquated experiments on animals. An estimated 47 percent of the grants awarded by NIH—the largest public funder of biomedical experimentation worldwide—pays for experiments, like those taking place at UC-Davis, that use dogs, rats, monkeys, mice, and other animals as “models” of human physiology:

The American people are being taken for a ride by those conducting this work, which rarely results in cures or effective treatments for humans. These dead-end experiments are being conducted with your tax dollars, but with your help, we can end these funding fiascos and the torment that they cause animals:


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“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