Over 20 million animals suffer and die in U.S. laboratories every year. These innocent victims are subjected to addictive drugs, caustic chemicals, ionizing radiation, chemical and biological weapons, electric shock, deprivation of food and/or water, psychological torture and many other horrors.
We have been lead to believe that the animals used in experiments are well treated and that the procedures performed on these animals are thoroughly regulated and governed by federal laws. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over 90% of the animals used in experimentation are purposely excluded from protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA — the only federal law that governs animal experimentation). Rats, mice, birds, and many other species have been expressly eliminated from all safeguards.
The AWA places no real restrictions on what can be done to an animal during an experiment. Animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food & water deprivation, isolation, severe confinement, caustic chemicals, burning, blinding, chemical and biological weapons, radiation, etc. The “scientist” in question only has to say that a specific procedure is “necessary” for the experiment, and it is allowed. The goal is not to protect the animal; the goal is to insure that the experiment proceeds — at any cost.
The species that are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act rats, mice, etc., are not just excluded from coverage of the AWA, they are not even counted. The majority of animals experimented upon in the U.S. are not listed in the official USDA statistics. The real number of animals experimented on in the U.S. each year is well over 20 million. Additionally, these statistics do not cover animals that are caged in laboratories but are being held for conditioning or breeding. For example, while the USDA reports the use of over 69,990 primates, an almost equal number of primates are imprisoned in breeding colonies.
While the public supports the idea of animal testing because they believe it necessary to find cures for human diseases, about two thirds or higher of all animal research has little or nothing to do with curing human diseases or advancing human medicine. The majority of animal testing is done on cosmetics and household cleaners for the purpose of protecting corporations from liability.
Even research that purports to advance human treatment of diseases has been shown to be irrelevant to human health. Animals behave differently than humans, so much of the results end up being inaccurate, inconclusive, or unreliable. The Food & Drug Administration recently reported that of all the drugs that tested safe and effective in animal testing, 92 percent are found to be either unsafe or ineffective in humans.
Biomedical researchers try to convince us that knowledge gained from animal studies can be extrapolated to humans yet their scientific papers reporting the results of research repeatedly include a disclaimer warning about making such an assumption.
Researchers get more money in grants by conducting animal testing, so there is little incentive for successful results or solid scientific design. Much of the research continues to be funded despite being redundant or inconclusive. And the animals suffer through torturous procedures, poor conditions, and poor treatment, with many animals dying as a result.
Animal “models” of human disease are erroneous because of the cellular and biochemical differences among different species. The best way to study diseases of humans is to conduct noninvasive and painless research on humans. This can be accomplished by a variety of methods. For example, increasing the number of human autopsies, which due to higher costs are undertaken less frequently than in the past. Virtually every disease has either been discovered or clarified by autopsies. Technological advances in the biological and physical sciences like CAT, MRI, and PET scans of humans have yet to have their full potentials tapped. Conducting epidemiological studies of human populations using high-speed computers has identified all known environmental poisons and occupational hazards. Clinical research – observing and analyzing patients’ conditions – has always been a vital component of medical investigations. Examples of diseases treated successfully as a result of clinical studies are innumerable. Post-marketing drug surveillance is yet another non-animal method. This is a system of reporting all of the effects and side effects of a medication after it has been released to the public. Health practitioners could detect and prevent the dangers associated with negative drug reactions. Many other effective non-animal methods are available in addition to these, such as such as in-vitro cell and tissue cultures, micro-fluidic circuits, computer modeling, and micro-dosing.
Even within the scientific community, there is growing concern about the use of animal testing. Three U.S. agencies aim to end animal testing, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program and the National Institutes of Health, realizing it is ineffective and wasteful. Non-animal-based research also is more ethical, as it doesn’t have the moral dissonance of taking one life in order to save another.
In addition, animal species routinely used in research have the capacity to feel pain, to enjoy pleasure, to think and act purposefully, and to prepare for future events. In short, they have degrees of self-awareness and lives that are important to them beyond any utilitarian purposes they may have for humans. To incarcerate them and subject them to painful research, even if such research may afford some benefit to humans, is unethical and immoral. If we are willing to subject animals to pain and agony in and attempt to improve our health, then what we lose in return, our compassion and empathy, is far greater.
In hidden areas of the University of Washington, thousands of animals live, suffer and die in the name of “research.” They undergo painful experimental surgeries and tests, live in boredom with the most minimal of care, many in separation, some developing psychological problems, until their usefulness is over. Over the years the research laboratories at the University of Washington have been cited for violations of even the most lax standards of governing bodies. The sheer number of animals kept by the UW, as well as the number of experiments conducted there, with the kind of invasive protocols some of them demand, means that even with the most strident assurances by the directors, a culture of unaccountability, hubris, and consistent abuse exists. There is a reason why the laboratories aren’t open to the public and their existence kept hidden from view. Given the regular pattern of abuse that gets uncovered, one can only imagine what occurs that is kept covered up.
In addition to the flagrant abuse, thousands of animals are incarcerated and die at the University of Washington every year. Nona Phillips of the IACUC, the body that nominally oversees the use of the animals at the UW, reports that the UW research labs “use” over 50,000 mice annually, and that thousands of them die of “unexpected” causes, unrelated to an experiment. Records are not kept on the numbers of animals of various species who are euthanized in the course of UW experiments. Among the “sacrificed” are mice, rats, birds, frogs, salmonids, primates, bats, other fish, salamanders, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, snakes, geckos, hamsters, and cats.
In 2014, the USDA cited the UW for failing to properly care for infant monkeys. Due to the negligence of the UW, 3 babies monkeys were attacked by an older male. The injures were so serious that the infants were euthanized. People properly trained in the care of animals, should know better than to leave infants alone with older males that are themselves traumatized.
The same year, the UW was found to have failed to give a second dose of pain medicine to 30 rabbits after they underwent surgery, as well as to a guinea pig, which later died. USDA officials also noted that researchers were not able to explain how a rabbit in the research lab fractured its pelvis and later died.
In 2013, a 4 year old rhesus macaque was euthanized after he chewed off his own fingers. The monkey had been injuring himself for over a month. Animals that are in captivity and stressed, often mutilate themselves due to depression and a deteriorated mental state.
In 2009 the USDA issued a citation after the UW was found negligent in an incident in which a macaque starved to death. The USDA officials said the monkey had had not been weighed regularly as required by the university’s own protocols. The UW was cited by the USDA for violations in the areas of inadequate veterinary care, inadequate housing and enclosures. The same USDA inspection noted a problem with two adult male baboons, being used for neurological studies. Cages were designed so that when the animals were on the perches where they usually sleep, they were unable to “sit upright in a normal manner” because of 2-inch-tall implants in their heads. Here is further detail on this story.
In 2008 the USDA cited the UW for unauthorized surgeries. Thanks to the efforts of PETA and SAEN (Stop Animals Exploitation Now), hundreds of documents have been uncovered that show flagrant abuses by animal researchers in the neuroscience labs studying the relationship between the brain and eye movement. The research involves putting a metal cylinder – sometimes two – into holes drilled in the monkey’s skull. and implant wire coils in their eyes. The monkeys are then restrained in experimentation chairs, with their heads bolted in place so that they can’t move while experimenters track their eye movements. They are kept hungry or thirsty much of the time so that they’ll comply during tests to get a sip of water or a bite of food. The USDA found that many primates had extra invasive surgical procedures than was authorized, a total of 41 surgeries over 14 monkeys, some with a dozen surgeries, as the eye coils and head chambers were removed and replaced, again and again. The USDA also found that improper sterilization of the implants occurred. Here is further detail on this story.
In November 2006, the UW was put on probation by the facilities accrediting agency, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) after they noted “serious deficiencies” in their animal-research facilities. The nine page report listed numerous violations, many stemming from the UW’s lack of maintenance dating back more than 20 years. Additionally the report identified a lack of internal oversight of the UW’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).
In 2002, IACUC was called upon to investigate the WaNPRC from the release of records obtained from an open letter law request which showed that at a particular lab within the Primate Center, a primate AIDS study went awry. According to the records, research data was lost or went missing, and of the 17 monkeys which records indicate have been sent to the UW laboratory for this particular project, 13 have been euthanized–none because of any symptoms that can definitely be linked to Simian AIDS. Some that have been “sacrificed” (biomedical research language) showed signs of possible self-mutilation like severe bruising, a crushed finger that had to be amputated, toenails that were ripped off, and broken bones. Euthanasia records indicate that two appeared to have been anorexic prior to their deaths.
In 1995, the university risked losing U.S. Department of Agriculture accreditation for its primate-breeding facility near Spokane when five baboons died of cold-weather exposure or thirst. The school paid a fine and closed the aging facility.
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