July 20, 2006
A report published last month by Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN), an organization opposing the abuse of animals in research laboratories, ranked Stanford seventeenth in terms of the number of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations in 2005. With nine violations in eleven months, Stanford was the only institution in the western U.S. to make the top 20.
A representative of the Stanford Veterinary Service Center (VSC) objects to the SAEN report that she says misrepresents animal research by making the “most egregious, inaccurate statements.”
According to SAEN
SAEN’s conclusions are based on inspections conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that inspects facilities that use animals in research. APHIS identified violations at Stanford in the areas of veterinary care and primary enclosures, as well as the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which is responsible for enforcing the AWA and oversees animals’ living conditions.
“The violations are very serious in that they demonstrate that the IACUC itself has no interest in following federal law,” said SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie.
According to Budkie, Stanford, like other research universities, conducts highly invasive experiments that involve confining primates to restraint chairs, depriving them of water and surgically attaching devices to their skulls. Budkie believes that efforts should be made to eliminate redundant research.
“The primate projects at Stanford are among the most duplicated in the United States and could be eliminated without any loss to science whatsoever,” Budkie said.
Budkie claimed that animal experimentation is primarily motivated by financial concerns.
“SAEN ranked Stanford 19th in the U.S. for bringing in approximately $163,374,000 per year from the Federal government for animal experimentation,” he said. “This is not about science or human health — it is about money.”
Although the 2005 report is the first time Stanford has ranked in the top 20, recent Stanford Law School graduate Matthew Liebman, a member of Animal Rights on the Farm (ARF) and Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF), said that Stanford has a “history of AWA violations and an institutional antagonism toward animal rights.”
“Animal-rights advocates have not reviewed Stanford’s USDA inspections since the mid-1990s,” Liebman said. “ARF and SALDF are in the process of using the Freedom of Information Act to get inspection documents for the last 15 years.”
Liebman believes that in order for the University to effectively protect animal welfare, it needs to be forthcoming about the procedures and number of animals used in research as well as the amount of suffering endured by the animals.
“As an elite and prestigious university, Stanford should be actively recruiting and supporting researchers in the field of alternatives to animal research, such as computer modeling, stem-cell research and in-vitro methods,” Liebman said. “It should immediately cease some of its most offensive animal experiments, such as the cocaine addiction tests on juvenile monkeys.”
SAEN has not received any response from Stanford concerning its recent report.
“Avoiding accountability and transparency to students and the public is the laboratory’s modus operandi,” Liebman said. “Animal Rights on the Farm has been campaigning for the last year to increase transparency at Stanford, but the Research Animal Facility at Stanford Medical School has been entirely resistant.”
According to the Stanford VSC
Although recognizing that individuals have a right to object to animal research, Dr. Linda Cork, director of the Veterinary Service Center and chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine, believes that animal research is “essential to scientific advancement and to advances in human health, based on [her] more than thirty years of personal experiences in science.”
In order to analyze the laboratory animal-care program at Stanford and the USDA’s inspection findings, Cork thinks that one must first understand that the USDA reports are structured so as to place widely differing items into a single category.
According to Cork, broad categorization of violation types can produce misleading results. For example, if a drug with an expired use date is found in a laboratory, regardless of whether it is used to treat an animal, it will be cited as a violation of Section 2.33, which deals with inadequate veterinary care.
A single event may involve several sections of the AWA, so an institution may receive multiple citations for a single event. Cork identified an instance at Stanford when a monkey got out of its cage. The incident was reported to the IACUC and USDA; however, the laboratory was unable to determine how the animal managed to escape from its enclosure. As a result, the USDA cited the laboratory twice — once for failure to confine the monkey in a secure enclosure and once for failure to train individuals on how to implement proper locking mechanisms — even though the actual cause of the problem was never discovered.
The most recent USDA inspection, cited by SAEN, contains several citations under Section 2.31, which deals with activities of the IACUC.
One of the citations was for a large pig that a USDA inspector thought walked with an abnormal gait because of overgrown hooves.
“The inspector’s opinion about the pig’s gait was not shared by experienced Stanford veterinarians (one of whom, unlike the USDA inspector, was a board certified specialist in the care of large animals), and all of whom were familiar with the animal,” Cork said. “The pig’s hooves had not been trimmed to avoid stressing the animal and to avoid the risk of administering anesthesia. Nevertheless, to respond to the inspector’s citation, the pig was subjected to anesthesia; its hooves were trimmed, but its gait remained unchanged.”
Several other citations under Section 2.31 dealt with the IACUC for not determining the training qualifications of a surgeon, for inadequate literature search, for a protocol in which changes were made without IACUC approval and for inadequate justification for using a specific number of animals.
“The individual was an M.D. and an experienced surgeon who was receiving additional species-specific training by Stanford veterinarians to improve the surgical outcome,” Cork said. “The surgeries took place in appropriate facilities, using aseptic surgical techniques with proper anesthesia, postoperative analgesia and care being provided by trained veterinary technicians. Animal welfare was being emphasized. The USDA’s concerns were not about animal welfare, but were about appropriate documentation and oversight of a complicated, ongoing study.”
Cork noted that the SAEN report fails to mention that the USDA’s inspection also describes Stanford’s new system for preventing problems with protocol review.
“Stanford invested significant financial and personnel resources to develop this system, which will make it easier for submitters and reviewers to comply with and document all regulatory requirements,” Cork said.
Cork also stated that improving Stanford’s large and diverse animal care program is an “ongoing activity that takes place on several fronts.”
“Stanford provides high quality animal care, but we always strive to do better,” she said. “The IACUC has a subcommittee that studies and recommends ways to improve the psychological enrichment of all species.
“Stanford has developed a sophisticated system for veterinary medical records. Our diagnostic lab for laboratory animals provides quick, accurate results for research and diagnosis. The VSC has experienced animal caretakers and a faculty and staff of skilled veterinary specialists to care for Stanford’s research animals.
“In short, Stanford provides most of the clinical resources for laboratory animal care that are usually found only in a major veterinary teaching hospital. It does so because it cares about animal welfare and because it values good science.”
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