Killing of Rabbits Deemed Non-Essential in UConn Lab Prompts PETA Complaints to School, Regulators

For Immediate Release:
March 30, 2022

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Hartford, Conn.

This morning, PETA called on the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) interim president, Radenka Maric, to reimburse nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds relating to rabbits who were killed by UConn experimenter Harvey Swadlow, who had deemed them extraneous to his testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. PETA, which uncovered the killings in documents it just obtained from the university, points out that non-essential research should never have been approved in the first place and the funds should be returned.

The deaths of these rabbits came after UConn issued a directive near the start of the pandemic to “immediately reduce animal numbers and number of cages” for those considered non-essential. PETA also filed a complaint with the National Institutes of Health urging an investigation into the apparent waste of taxpayer funds for experiments on animals at UConn and elsewhere deemed non-essential, a complaint with the National Eye Institute—which bankrolled Swadlow’s aborted experiments on rabbits—urging it to recuperate expended funds, and a complaint with the Connecticut state auditor calling for an audit of UConn’s animal testing because of apparent fiscal waste.

“UConn’s killing of rabbits deemed non-essential in response to the COVID-19 pandemic makes us question why such animals are bought, bred, and experimented on in the first place if they’re considered extraneous,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is calling on federal and state regulators to ensure that this university does not get away with daylight robbery at the expense of vulnerable animals and American taxpayers.”

Swadlow’s experiments involve surgically fixing a stainless steel bar to the rabbits to immobilize their heads, restraining their bodies, and depriving them of food and water in attempts to study visual processing during different waking states. As PETA’s Research Modernization Deal points out, more than 90% of basic scientific research—much of it involving animal testing—fails to lead to treatments for humans and 95% of new medications that are found to be safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials.

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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