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From  Issue
28 April 2002
Last Chance For Lab Animals

By Mary Max - mrsmax@earthlink.net 

With PETA's undercover videotape of egregious acts of animal abuse by lab technicians at the University of North Carolina's research lab being delivered to members of the Farm Bill Conference committee last Friday, we might just have another real chance to exclude Sen. Jesse Helms Amendment! Please read the below and then make a few calls!!

As many of you know, the US Senate and the House of Representatives have each passed their own versions of the Farm Bill. Conferees from the Senate and House Agriculture Committees are meeting now to iron out differences between the two bills before it is signed by the President.

There are four animal protection amendments that animal exploiters are working hard to have removed: the Animal Fighting Amendment, the Puppy Protection Act, the Bear Protection Act, and The Downed Animal Provision.

There is one amendment the animal exploiters hope to keep - the amendment introduced by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) which would bar the USDA from including mice, rats and birds under the Animal Welfare Act.

In the April 19 Washington Post article, "PETA Says Tape Shows Rat Research Violations," reporter Rick Weiss gives us some background on that amendment,

"The Animal Welfare Act, which since 1971 has been the keystone statute regarding the use and care of lab animals, requires the Department of Agriculture to promulgate rules for the handling of all warm-blooded research animals. But the USDA has never done so for rodents or birds, saying such regulation would be burdensome and expensive and could stymie important biomedical research. More than 20 million of the animals are used annually in U.S. labs, accounting for 95 percent of all research animals.

"Facing a lawsuit by activists that the agency was widely predicted to lose, the USDA in October 2000 agreed to start a rulemaking process covering rodents and birds. But the agency has yet to release draft wording. None will be needed if Helm's amendment, which would permanently exempt those animals from the AWA, survives conference discussions now underway."

The Post article focuses on an undercover video taken by a PETA spy who infiltrated a University of North Carolina animal research facility with a hidden camera. The video has been delivered to House and Senate conferees. Weiss writes,

"Helms and others have claimed that rodents and birds are adequately protected by other federal and institutional rules. The video seeks to undercut that assurance. In one scene, a researcher cuts open the skulls of squirming baby rats to remove their brains without first numbing the animals in a bucket of ice -- a shortcut that the researcher concedes on tape is a violation of the experimental protocol. 'I don't put them to sleep,' he tells the undercover technician. 'Maybe it's illegal, but it's easier.'"

The article also describes other disturbing footage. You can read it on line at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13173-2002Apr19.html 

I hope the footage described in the Washington Post article will motivate you to spend just a few minutes making an effort to help defeat Senator Helm's amendment.

I urge everyone to make a quick and polite call to the following offices saying that you are calling to ask the Representative or Senator to OPPOSE the Helms amendment to the Farm Bill which would exclude birds, rats, and mice from the Animal Welfare Act. (Some receptionists may ask if you have input on other issues in which case please mention you would like them to SUPPORT the four animal protection amendments mentioned at the top of this alert.)

Here are the numbers of the Conference Committee heads:

1. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA): ph: (202) 224-2035 / Fax: (202) 224-9287
2. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN): ph: (202) 224-2035 (same number as
Harkin's) / Fax: (202) 224-1725
3. Representative Larry Combest (R-TX): ph: (202) 225-2171 / Fax: (202)
225-0917
4. Representative Charles Stenholm (D-TX): ph: (202) 225-0317/ Fax: (202)
225-8510

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