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

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2023

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


PETA is urging the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to stop its agonizing and ineffective decompression sickness experiments conducted on mice for the U.S. Navy, which bankrolls the tests with nearly $1 million in taxpayer funds.

In UMB experimenter Stephen Thom’s tests, over 2,000 mice are confined to a decompression chamber for up to two hours at a time to induce the “bends.” He also inserts probes into their rectums, puts petroleum-based chemicals into their eyes, drills into their skulls, injects chemicals into their brains, and forces them into carbon dioxide gas chambers. The mice are ultimately killed by being bled to death.

The Navy also funds decompression studies at Duke University and the universities of San Diego 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 UMB 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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