Breaking the Law II, Animal Care in U.S. Labs: Government Sanctioned Negligence
The examples of negligence, abuse, and callousness exhibited by research facility staff as recounted in the inspection report quotations contained in this document are enough to make the layman cringe in disbelief. A monkey strangled on plastic tubing at Harvard because the researcher who was in charge of the primate went to lunch. At the Boehringer Ingelheim pharmaceutical company in Ridgefield (CT) a beagle asphyxiated after becoming trapped between the bars of a cage. At this same facility a squirrel monkey died after being run through a cage washer (a repeat incident), other primates lost all the skin off their hands or sustained thermal injuries.
At Vanderbilt a squirrel monkey named Lilí Wayne was found in a state of collapse due to the shutoff of water during renovations; he was euthanized. At Emory University two rhesus monkeys were duct taped to restraint chairs for blood withdrawal. Dogs at the Southern Research Institute were starved during a two week period to the point that one dog lost more than 38% of his/her body weight. Dogs at Covance laboratories are also deprived of food. Veterinary care at many facilities is inadequate or non-existent, expired drugs are used, animals are denied proper anesthesia, primates are deprived of water, the list of abuses is both interminable and unbelievable.
The vast majority of these violations are taking place under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Regional Office of the USDA/APHIS/AC. A report published by the Office of the Inspector General of the USDA stated that this entity has drastically reduced the number of enforcement actions taken against all entities, including labs. Apparently the research institutions in his sector are using this announcement as license to ignore federal law on a wholesale level. They know that there are effectively no penalties for abusing animals and they have taken advantage of the situation.
From a scientific point of view the information presented in this report is catastrophic. Research protocols are routinely not followed, procedures are changed or ignored, and effects of drugs are ignored. This total lack of consistency results in data is compromised, or more likely useless. Drugs are not dosed appropriately. Anesthetics are under dosed, or not used at all. The use of expired drugs is commonplace. The sloppiness and disregard for any semblance of scientific method is shocking. Companies that test therapies, drugs and procedures are so careless that animals are killed in the process of cleaning cages. Prestigious universities maim and kill dogs and primates out of sheer negligence. The American public should be appalled at the reality of life and death within our nationís laboratories. It is no wonder that our drugs are unsafe. It is clear that animal research in the U.S. is anything but scientific.
It appears that the Animal Welfare Act doesnít exist in laboratories within the eastern US. In the recent past the University of Wisconsin was fined for killing primates in a cage washer. However, the Boehringer Ingelheim Company, who has apparently done the same thing repeatedly, has not been prosecuted. It may be that the relevant variable is not how the law is violated, but who finds out about it. The UW prosecution followed media attention resulting from intervention by a local animal protection organization. If the Eastern Regional Office of the USDA/APHIS/AC is to retain any vestige of credibility then enforcement actions must be immediately initiated against several research facilities.
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