PETA to USDA: End ‘Tax’ for California-Based Highbush Blueberry Council

Group Urges Agency to Stop Tests by California Group and Others, Which Douche, Poison, and Starve Thousands of Animals

For Immediate Release:
September 8, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Sacramento, Calif.

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 Folsom-based Highbush Blueberry Council (HBC) and others, for marketing fruits and vegetables.

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

  • Experimenters fed rats blueberries, restrained them in tubes while a cat was in the room to induce PTSD-like symptoms, forced them to perform a stress-inducing behavioral test, and killed and dissected them.
  • They starved mice and took their blood, injected them with a chemical to induce menopause, douched their vaginas, fed them a high-fat diet with blueberries, injected them with insulin, and killed and dissected them.
  • They fed rats strawberries or blueberries, forced them to grab wires while suspended and struggle to walk on rods that rotated at an accelerated speed, injected them with a chemical, and killed and dissected them. Five rats were killed before the end of the experiment because of excessive weight loss.

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

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