Judge Denies Feds’ Motion to Dismiss PETA’s Animal Sepsis Tests Lawsuit

Groundbreaking Lawsuit Challenging National Institutes of Health’s ‘Capricious’ Grants Will Proceed

For Immediate Release:
March 23, 2023

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Bethesda, Md.

A judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland yesterday released a decision and order denying the government’s request to dismiss PETA’s first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIH Acting Director Lawrence A. Tabak, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The ruling means that PETA was found eligible to sue, and the lawsuit will proceed.

Filed under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, PETA’s lawsuit alleges that funding sepsis experiments on animals—despite NIH’s own acknowledgment that mice and humans don’t experience the same condition—abuses the agencies’ discretion and violates their obligation to fund research to improve human health and minimize the use of animals in experiments.

“The Court’s decision confirms that PETA will have its day in court and a fighting chance to prove that NIH’s funding of animal experiments to treat human sepsis is illegal, arbitrary, and capricious,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “Sepsis experiments on animals don’t work, and NIH knows this—but continues to pour money into these ineffective, cruel studies.”

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to infection, affecting one in three patients who die in the hospital and at least 1.7 million Americans in a typical year. Studies on animals have failed to lead to effective treatments. A 2013 landmark study revealed that sepsis doesn’t affect humans as it does mice, and then–NIH Director Francis Collins lamented the “loss of decades of research and billions of dollars” in the development of 150 drugs that successfully treated sepsis in mice but failed in humans. At least 15 peer-reviewed publications over the past 20 years have described how sepsis in humans differs from sepsis in other animals.

Despite this, NIH still directs tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to sepsis experiments in which animals are injected with toxins or feces, subjected to invasive surgeries, force-fed harmful bacteria, and/or made to inhale a bacterial “slurry.” The animals endure fever, chills, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, lethargy, disorientation, shock, multiple organ failure, and eventually death.

Prior to taking legal action, PETA compiled a comprehensive scientific and legal report outlining why NIH’s funding of sepsis studies on animals is potentially unlawful as well as scientifically unsound and sent it to the agency. The group is represented by Jonathan R. Mook of DiMuroGinsberg P.C.

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

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