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

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

For Immediate Release:
September 8, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

San Francisco

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 Redwood Shores–based Mushroom Council and others, for marketing fruits and vegetables.

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

  • Experimenters fed rats white button mushrooms and forced them to perform several stress-inducing motor and cognitive tests, such as walking on balance beams and rotating rods and swimming through a water maze. Fourteen rats died or had to be killed early because of excessive weight loss.
  • They fed pigs white button mushrooms, repeatedly poked their anuses, took their blood, and killed and dissected them.
  • They fed genetically modified mice who were prone to atherosclerosis a high-fat diet with or without shiitake or Portobello mushrooms, suffocated them, drained their blood, 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

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