Vanderbilt University’s Big Secret: Elite Institution Has an Obsession With Animal Testing

Published by Danny Prater.

Vanderbilt University is seen as a prestigious academic institution. But now, PETA has unearthed documents revealing appalling violations, misery, and death. This dark side of Vanderbilt is kept hidden from the public as well as most students and faculty. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the school itself are the largest hotbeds for crude, painful, and useless experimentation on animals in Tennessee. In fact, Vandy ranks among the most prolific tormentors of animals in laboratories anywhere in the country.

rabbit used in experiments at vanderbilt university

Recent reports that document violations of federal animal welfare regulations and guidelines paint a grim picture of animal suffering at Vanderbilt.

Earlier this year, the university was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after four guinea pigs died painfully and in distress while being used in experiments in which a tube was forced down their windpipes. The lead experimenter didn’t even have a veterinarian present, as required, and it was later determined that the guinea pigs had not been fully anesthetized—they likely felt it all. The experimenter attempted to hide these issues but was found out.

Last year, the USDA cited Vanderbilt after six rabbits were found to be suffering and in pain after an experimenter injected a test drug into their eyes. The rabbits’ eyes were red and swollen, and some of the animals couldn’t even open them.

animals are used in experiments at vanderbilt university medical center

Previous violations at Vandy include these.

  • Multiple experimenters failed to obtain approval from the school’s animal experimentation oversight committee before carrying out invasive and painful experiments on animals.
    • In one case, an experimenter deviated from the approved protocol for pain relief for gerbils—resulting in the death of multiple animals.
    • In another, an experimenter used more pigs in an experiment than had been approved.
  • On numerous occasions in Vanderbilt’s laboratories, mice have died of starvation or dehydration after laboratory personnel failed to provide them with food or water.
  • Experimenters at the school have subjected animals to painful procedures—including invasive surgeries—but then failed to do the following:
    • Provide the animals with post-procedural pain relief in accordance with approved protocols
    • Ensure that pain medications weren’t expired

rabbit in vandy lab suffering from use in tests

Further Evidence of Animal Suffering at Vanderbilt

Neglect, incompetence, and a culture of disregard have resulted in almost unimaginable misery and suffering for the animals trapped in laboratories at Vanderbilt.

In 2020 alone—a year in which the university received more than $377 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about half of which was directed toward funding or performing cruel and deadly experiments on animals—the school imprisoned these animals in its laboratories:

  • Dozens of dogs, rabbits, and monkeys
  • Hundreds of gerbils
  • Untold numbers of mice and rats

The School Has Repeatedly Been Fined by the USDA

In 2007, the school was fined $7,218.75 for—among other lapses—failing to give water to a squirrel monkey named Lil Wayne, who later died of dehydration. Water had been shut off to the monkeys’ caging area, but no one checked on the animals for days.

In 2008, the school was fined $8,156 after a galago monkey was scalded to death when her cage was run through a high-temperature mechanical cage washer while she was still trapped inside.

What You Can Do for Animals in Laboratories at Vanderbilt and Other Schools

Animals used in experiments suffer horribly, and the results of the archaic and cruel animal tests performed at Vanderbilt (or anywhere else) don’t help anyone.

scared rabbit in Vanderbilt laboratory

We must switch to a better way: We need lawmakers to understand how much money NIH currently wastes. Please send a polite e-mail to your members of Congress, urging them to mandate that NIH stop throwing away tax dollars on cruel and useless animal experiments and instead focus on modern, non-animal research methods.

Ask Your Legislators to Support PETA’s Research Modernization Deal

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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