The Animal Experimentation Scandal:
In summary, it appears that the current system for grant approval has been constituted in such a way as to provide for the approval of almost any grant for an animal experimentation project, with few motivations for a project to be disapproved. The individuals involved in the approval process often have a vested interest in approving grants, with little or no incentive to disapprove grants.
The existing system has led to a steady climb (28,937 for 2005 projects in target species, a 59% increase for a ten-year period) in the number of animal experimentation projects funded by the NIH over the last ten years. A conservative estimate of the current annual expenditure for animal based experimentation as it is funded by the National Institutes of Health exceeds $12 billion which is a 133% increase for a ten-year period.
30 nationally known laboratories account for receive an average of roughly $195 million annually for the performance of animal experimentation, or $53,000 per facility per day receiving 39% of all animal experimentation grants in the US. All of these facilities receive over $100 million per year, with the top 10 at approximately $200 million or more. The top two labs, Harvard and the University of Washington, have eclipsed the $400 million mark annually. Since laboratories have a monetary interest in performing as much experimentation as possible, it is expected that without radical changes to the grant approval process these numbers of animal experiments will continue to increase. Eleven of these top labs for receiving federal funding for animal experimentation are also among the 25 offenders for violating federal laws regarding animal care, and three have been fined by the USDA for Animal Welfare Act violations in the last two years.
Several specific areas of experimentation have been examined to study the issue of experimental duplication. 778 separate projects study neural information processing primarily in macaque monkeys, rats and mice using almost $500 million per year in federal funds. Additionally, 1200 grants study addiction to various drugs primarily in rats, mice or macaque monkeys potentially using more than $321 million annually. When combined these two areas potentially waste over $800 million per year.
The consumption of this funding in animal experiments may also prevent U.S. citizens from accessing the social programs that they need. How many people could be funded in substance abuse programs with the $495 million that is currently directed at animal experiments in addiction? How many of them will die for lack of treatment? What will the cost be to our society in health care, criminal justice and other programs because these people weren’t treated? What is more important keeping multi-million dollar laboratories open, or keeping U.S. citizens alive?
It is time that we end the process of writing the research community a $12 billion blank check every year for the purpose of performing animal experimentation with little more than a vague hope that any real benefits will result. Every day the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Office of Assistant Secretary of Health (OASH) spends over $33,396,161 on animal experiments. Shouldn’t we be examining this whole process much more closely?
A radical restructuring of the grant approval system and the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee system is necessary to prevent further waste of federal tax dollars and animal lives.
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