COVID-19, Violations Prompt PETA Call for UNC-Chapel Hill to Shut Down Animal Labs

For Immediate Release:
March 25, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

  • Lab tests not approved as “critical” are expected to be “ramped down, curtailed, suspended, or delayed,” likely by killing animals, as part of COVID-19 response plan
  • Federal policy violations include failing to follow approved protocols, causing mice to suffer; performing unapproved surgeries, causing mice and rats to die; and more
  • PETA demands animal testing shutdown and release of information on taxpayer-funded experiments deemed “non-essential” by UNC–Chapel Hill 

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Following reports that because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill is telling experimenters that laboratory experiments “not approved as ‘critical research activity’ [are] expected to be ramped down, curtailed, suspended, or delayed” and that they are to “indicate which of their rodent cages are priority and are critical to maintain”—which will likely lead to the killing of hundreds of animals in laboratories—PETA fired off a letter today to the university’s chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, urging an end to animal experimentation at the school immediately.

PETA questions why the university is conducting non-critical experiments on animals in the first place and points to disturbing reports, obtained from the National Institutes of Health via the Freedom of Information Act, revealing that UNC–Chapel Hill has reported many violations of the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, including the following: On separate occasions, mice exceeded humane endpoints and were left in pain after laboratory staff failed to follow the approved protocols; a mouse colony was inappropriately handled over the course of years, which resulted in the animals being distressed and injured and even killed; about 200 fish died when staff members failed to use the proper type of water in their tanks; a rat died after a graduate student performed an unapproved surgery on the animal; and in separate incidents, mice died after undergoing unapproved surgical procedures or receiving expired or the wrong medications.

Based on UNC–Chapel Hill’s repeated and documented failure to abide by animal protection laws and given that the school considers many of its experiments on animals not to be “critical”—as its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown—PETA is urging it to prohibit the approval of new animal protocols and experiments, ban the breeding and acquisition of animals for laboratories, finalize and end current animal experiments, switch to superior human-relevant research methods if these experiments cannot concretely be shown to have improved human health, and publicly release information on any and all animals killed because the university deemed them not “essential” to the testing.

“If UNC–Chapel Hill does a sloppy, substandard job of caring for animals in fully staffed laboratories, nothing good can be expected amid a pandemic,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “The COVID-19 outbreak should be a moral and scientific reckoning for the school, which conducts deadly experiments on animals. If the university can’t prove that these experiments are needed—which we know it can’t—it shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on them in the first place.”

Numerous published studies have shown that animal experimentation wastes resources and lives, as more than 90% of highly promising results from basic scientific research—much of it involving animal experimentation—fail to lead to treatments for humans. (Please read under “Lack of benefit for humans” here.) And 95% of new medications that are found to be effective in animals fail in human clinical trials.

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 or click here.

PETA’s letter to UNC–Chapel Hill is available here.

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