Escapes, Injuries, Burns, Errors Inside NIH Animal Laboratories; PETA Says Francis Collins Must Go

For Immediate Release:
July 26, 2021

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Bethesda, Md.

Laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have violated dozens of animal welfare guidelines, resulting in escapes, injuries, burns, and deaths—one animal even burst into flames. In a letter sent today, PETA urges Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to call for NIH Director Francis Collins to resign.

The 34 violations, which PETA uncovered through a public records request, span just 16 months—from March 2020 to June 2021—and include the following:

  • Numerous animals died because of equipment malfunction and employee negligence. In one incident, a mouse’s body erupted in flames after experimenters used electrocautery during surgery despite a buildup of alcohol fumes. Other deaths included those of a guinea pig who fell through a cage opening, two hamsters who suffocated, and a monkey who became entangled in a chain.
  • On three separate occasions, monkeys escaped from their cages, and in the ensuing struggles, employees were bitten on their thighs, hands, and fingers.
  • Experimenters subjected a monkey to two major surgeries, although only one had been approved, and a monkey sustained an extensive burn when an experimenter placed a hot gel pack directly on the animal’s abdomen.
  • Fifteen monkeys and 142 mice were given expired analgesics following surgeries, and 75 mice weren’t given any pain relief at all after invasive embryo transfer surgeries.
  • A monkey sustained serious injuries that required extensive surgical treatment when workers failed to place him with a compatible cagemate.

“The director of NIH  should be called Francis ‘Blind Eye’ Collins for refusing to acknowledge and deal with these serious issues,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo.“ He should resign immediately.”

PETA previously revealed violations in NIH’s laboratories. In total, the agency violated animal welfare guidelines 41 times between January 2018 and February 2020. Experimenters and their staff failed to feed animals, who starved to death; deviated from approved protocols, causing serious infections in dogs; baked mice to death by failing to maintain HVAC equipment; and more.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group’s full letter to Becerra is available here. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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