PETA to UCSD: Sink U.S. Navy–Funded Decompression Experiments on Animals

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2023

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

San Diego

PETA is urging the University of California–San Diego (UCSD) to stop conducting agonizing and ineffective decompression sickness and oxygen toxicity experiments on rats for the U.S. Navy, which bankrolls the tests with more than $1 million in taxpayer funds.

In UCSD experimenter Peter Lindholm’s tests, rats are forced to run on a treadmill for an hour and a half and are electroshocked if they can’t keep up. He also confines them to a decompression chamber for up to 45 minutes at a time to induce the “bends,” attaches a breathing device to their face, and forces them to inhale pure oxygen and radioactive nitrogen.

The Navy also funds decompression studies at Duke University and the universities of Maryland and South Florida. PETA sent letters to the leadership at these institutions urging them to stop conducting the tests and to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro noting that many non-animal research methods are more applicable to humans, including in vitro studies, reanalysis of existing human diver data, machine-learning techniques, and computer modeling. Decompression sickness, commonly called “the bends,” and oxygen toxicity affect species in disparate ways because of major physiological differences between them.

“The Navy can’t claim to be a world leader as long as it continues tormenting animals in barbaric decompression sickness and oxygen toxicity tests that it knows are irrelevant to human health,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is calling on UCSD and secretaries Austin and Del Toro to switch to superior, human-relevant methods, as France and the U.K. have done, and stop wasting taxpayers’ money and animals’ lives.”

Last year, the Navy ended its funding of decompression tests conducted on sheep at the University of Wisconsin–Madison up to two years ahead of schedule following a PETA appeal to Del Toro that was cosigned by retired Rear Admiral Dr. Marion Balsam.

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, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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