PETA to USDA: End Draconian ‘Tax’ on Farmers for Florida-Bases Mango and Watermelon Boards

Group Urges Agency to Stop Tests by Mango, Watermelon National Boards and Others, Which Poison and Kill Thousands of Animals

For Immediate Release:
September 8, 2020

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Orlando, Fla. – This morning, PETA sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him to prohibit what amounts to an exorbitant “tax” on farmers, who must pay hundreds of millions in annual fees to agricultural commodity research and promotion boards (known as “checkoffs”). Some of these funds are used for deadly animal tests, sponsored by the Orlando-based National Mango Board (NMB), the Winter Springs–based National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), and others, for marketing fruits and vegetables.

PETA’s letter notes that many of the 21 agricultural commodity boards, including the NMB and the NWPB, are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and fund these animal experiments. Some of the NMB’s and the NWPB’s sponsored animal tests include the following:

  • Experimenters injected mice with cancer cells, repeatedly force-fed them mango extracts, and killed and dissected them.
  • They fed rats mangoes or pomegranates and a chemical that induces colitis digestive disease and then killed and dissected them.
  • They fed rats an artery-blocking diet with or without watermelon, suffocated them, took their blood, and dissected them.
  • They fed rats watermelon, repeatedly injected them with a carcinogen that induces colon cancer, and killed and dissected them.

These tests on animals are neither relevant to humans nor required by law. More than 2,600 mice, rats, and pigs were used in tests funded by the checkoff programs and published between 2015 and 2019. The Government Accountability Office reports that in 2016, assessment fees for agricultural commodity producers, handlers, processors, importers, and others totaled over $885 million.

PETA points out that these agricultural products—including blueberries, mushrooms, and watermelons—are commonplace foods with a long history of safe human consumption. Researchers could have instead pursued safe and effective human studies, which would yield human-relevant results.

After discussions with PETA, dozens of major food and beverage manufacturers—including PepsiCo, the Kellogg Company, and Barilla—have established policies against animal testing.

“Forcing American farmers to pay what amounts to a draconian ‘tax’ to fund barbaric, lethal animal experiments for marketing agricultural products is cruel and doesn’t advance human health,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is urging the USDA to cut wasteful spending on misguided animal tests and instead require agricultural commodity boards to use superior, non-animal research methods.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind