COVID-19, Violations Prompt PETA Call for Johns Hopkins to Shut Down Animal Labs

School laboratories will kill animals considered "extraneous" and not "critical" to university's experiments

For Immediate Release:
March 18, 2020

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Baltimore – In light of reports that as part of a COVID-19 response, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is instructing laboratory experimenters to start identifying—and, likely, soon after start killing—animals who are not considered “critical” to the university’s tests, PETA has sent JHU President Ronald Daniels a letter urging him to shut down animal experimentation at the school immediately.

PETA points to disturbing reports and photographs, newly obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Freedom of Information Act, revealing chronic and systemic violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in JHU’s laboratories. Highly social primates—many of whom are overweight and/or suffer from significant hair loss, which may be compounded when they tear out their own hair because of frustration at not having the opportunity to engage in instinctual grooming—were locked in barren laboratory cages alone and with no enrichment. Among other violations, a worker closed a cage door on a marmoset monkey, causing the animal’s death; a young monkey who apparently endured prolonged exposure to cold temperatures was found dead with her head stuck inside a ball with a hole chewed in it that had been used for “enrichment”; 12 rabbits couldn’t easily access fresh drinking water; and a rabbit died by asphyxiation after being left in a cage that was sent through a high-temperature disinfecting machine.

Based on JHU’s repeated and documented failure to abide by the AWA—and given that the school considers many of the animals in its laboratories to be “extraneous” to its experiments, as its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown—PETA is urging the university to prohibit the approval of new animal protocols and experiments, ban the breeding and acquisition of animals for laboratories, and finalize and end current animal experiments.

“Johns Hopkins’ abuse of intelligent animals in experiments as though they were nothing more than disposable laboratory equipment is shameful,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “The novel coronavirus pandemic should be a moral and scientific reckoning for the school, which has harmed and killed animals in expendable studies.”

JHU receives billions of dollars in taxpayer funding from the National Institutes of Health—more than any other university in the country—and wastes much of it on cruel, curiosity-driven experiments on animals that are irrelevant to human health. JHU experimenter Shreesh Mysore, for example, has received more than $1.3 million in taxpayer-funded grants from the agency to cut into owls’ skulls, insert electrodes into their brains, restrain them for hours, and record their brain activity after bombarding them with lights and noises in a failed attempt to understand attention deficit disorder in humans. PETA is urging JHU to end Mysore’s experiments and retire the owls to a sanctuary, rather than potentially killing them as part of its COVID-19 response.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or click here.

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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