UAB Whistleblower Comes Forward; Feds to Investigate University Lab

Insider Contacted PETA About Animal Suffering and Death in Organ-Transplant Laboratory at the University of Alabama–Birmingham

For Immediate Release:
September 2, 2020

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Birmingham, Ala. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will investigate a University of Alabama–Birmingham xenotransplantation laboratory—where the organs of genetically modified pigs are transplanted into baboons—after a whistleblower gave documents, photos, and video footage to PETA that reveal acute animal suffering and scores of apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

According to the whistleblower, experimenters did not follow proper protocols for animal care, failed to comply with common veterinary standards, used expired or incorrect medications, and falsified veterinary-care records to hide their failure to relieve animals’ suffering.

Among the whistleblower’s other allegations, a pig’s kidney had been transplanted into a baboon named Laja in January 2019. In a video taken in June 2019 to show the “success” of the surgery, Laja appears emaciated and is missing a lot of hair as she repetitively circles and somersaults in her cage, a sign of extreme psychological distress. As she got sicker—not better—following the transplant, fluid built up in her abdomen, pockets of fluid collected along her ulcerated surgery incision, and she developed an open sore on her thigh. Rather than properly treating the wounds, experimenters reportedly applied Woolite laundry detergent to them to hide the poor condition of her skin. She was killed in September 2019.

A photograph shows a baboon’s miserable post-operative condition after a pig’s heart was transplanted into her body. The intravenous tube can be seen leaking. The baboon reportedly died within two days. E-mails shared by the whistleblower reveal that experimenters discussed underfeeding a pig in order to keep her from growing too large for her organs to be removed and transplanted into another animal.

“Sensitive monkeys and pigs are being used in grisly Frankenstein experiments that have never worked,” says PETA Vice President of Laboratory Investigations Alka Chandna, Ph.D. “The school apparently can’t even comply with simple animal protection laws. University President Ray Watts should close this laboratory now.”

PETA is also urging the CEO of United Therapeutics—the company that has bankrolled these experiments with $19.5 million over five years—to rethink its funding, noting that implementing presumed organ-donation consent laws would increase organ availability, thus alleviating the shortage and saving more human lives.

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

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.

Contact

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 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