Hundreds of Animals Denied Pain Relief, Others Starved to Death in Vanderbilt Laboratories

For Immediate Release:
August 10, 2022

Amanda Hays 202-483-7382

Nashville, Tenn.

After uncovering 19 violations of federal animal welfare guidelines in Vanderbilt University’s laboratories from January 2019 to August 2021, PETA is calling on Jeffrey R. Balser, president and CEO of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, to ban everyone involved in these violations from using animals and bar them from all university animal laboratories. PETA is also urging Balser to embrace its scientists’ Research Modernization Deal, a strategy to replace useless animal experiments with modern, animal-free technology.

The federal reports obtained by PETA document scores of incidents in which animals suffered and died, including the following:

  • Experimenters failed to administer adequate pain relief to 110 mice who underwent craniotomies (in which part of their skulls was removed to expose their brains), five mice whose abdomens were cut open in order to insert mechanical pumps, and other mice who endured invasive laparoscopic procedures in which medical instruments were inserted into their abdomens.
  • Parts of the tails of 30 mice were amputated without pain relief.
  • Fifty mice endured invasive brain surgery performed by experimenters who used an unsterile technique, used the wrong kind of sutures, and failed to remove the sutures at the correct time.
  • On eight occasions, mice and their pups died from starvation or dehydration because staff hadn’t given them access to food or water.
  • Four mice confined to a cage were found to be dying or already dead from suffocation because staff had negligently cut off their oxygen supply.
  • Technicians threw out a box of live mice after unpacking four other boxes containing mice that had been delivered to the laboratory.

“Vanderbilt’s laboratories are cesspools of misery and death for the animals imprisoned within their walls,” says PETA Vice President Dr. Alka Chandna. “Vanderbilt experimenters apparently have no respect either for animals or for federal guidelines, and the school must modernize its research program with non-animal methods now.”

Vanderbilt received more than $462 million in taxpayer funds last year from the National Institutes of Health—yet the school has a long history of chronic and systemic violations of federal animal welfare guidelines. It was fined more than $15,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violations that included failing to give a squirrel monkey water—which caused him to die from dehydration—and scalding a galago monkey to death when her cage was run through a high-temperature mechanical cage washer while she was trapped inside.

Numerous published studies have shown that animal experimentation wastes resources and lives, and 95% of new medications found to be safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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