For Immediate Release:
November 18, 2020
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Berkeley, Calif. – Please see the following statement from neuroscientist and PETA Research Associate Emily Trunnell, Ph.D., regarding a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act at the University of California–Berkeley:
The University of California–Berkeley not only continues to experiment on bats—apparently indifferent to a global pandemic that has ended life as we knew it—but also can’t even care for them as required by law.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited the university for a critical violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act after a bat in the school’s laboratory sustained a serious injury that left the animal unable to fly, reportedly because of inappropriate handling. In addition to being crippled, this bat would have experienced panic and terror.
According to a recent federal report, the university imprisons more than 300 bats in its laboratories—even though public health experts from Dr. Anthony Fauci to the World Health Organization have acknowledged that wildlife markets that sold living and dead animals, including bats, gave rise to the current pandemic. In addition, COVID-19 cases are once again spiking in the U.S. In April, PETA called on the university to end its invasive and deadly experiments on bats and switch to superior, animal-free, human-relevant methods, noting safety concerns involving the novel coronavirus.
This is not the first time that UC-Berkeley has run afoul of laws governing the treatment of animals in laboratories. In June 2017, two bats died when they were left inside a transport enclosure and weren’t discovered until the next week. In November 2016, a bat in the school’s laboratory was found dead in an enclosure and disposed of by a student before veterinarians could determine a cause of death. In August 2013, the school was fined by the USDA following the deaths from dehydration of five voles who had been locked inside cages in the university’s laboratories and forgotten, without adequate water.
Experimenters at the university reportedly use bats in attempts to gain insight into vocal learning and brain activity during human socialization. According to published papers, they have played continuous background noise in order to disrupt the normal vocal development of baby bats and taken male Egyptian fruit bats from their wild homes, caged them in the laboratory, anesthetized them, cut open their heads, and implanted electrodes held in place with screws inserted into their skulls. The wild bats were killed at the end of the experiments by an overdose of sodium pentobarbital.
There are safer, kinder, and more human-relevant ways of conducting behavioral neuroscience research, including through brain imaging and the use of human volunteers. Importantly, vocal learning and brain activity during socialization can be studied in humans non-invasively.
Like larger animals, bats deserve to have protection from being tormented, injured, and killed. The only mammals who can truly fly, bats perform a valuable service by controlling populations of mosquitoes and other insects. Baby bats, called “pups,” nurse from their mothers, and some species even “babble” like human babies. When left alone in their natural habitat, bats live an average of 30 years and form friendships that may last decades.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.
For more information, please read 7 Things You Need to Know About Experiments on Animals and COVID-19.