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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Despite reports, BU officials cite animal safety

Christine Lindberg
Issue date: 2/20/07 Section: News

The Boston University Medical Campus has not received an Ohio-based animal rights group's report accusing BU of mistreating animals in research laboratories, according to Medical Campus officials.

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, an organization aimed at ending animal laboratory abuse, examined up to 300 U.S. laboratories and ranked the Medical Campus facilities 11th among the 20 worst animal rights violators in 2005, said SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie.

The BU medical facilities violated the Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 law regulating the treatment of animals in research, 11 times in 2005, according to the Feb. 3 report.

Isolated sleep chambers and improper anesthetizing of monkeys during surgery are some of the animal violations, according to the report.

The BU Laboratory Animal Science Center, an accredited center providing animal care services to a wide range of species, and the Laboratory Animal Care Facility, a Charles River Campus facility housing animals used for research, have not received notification of any SAEN report of animal mistreatment, said BUMC Corporate Communications Director Ellen Berlin.

SAEN, founded in 1996, placed eight Massachusetts research facilities on its list, including BU, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Information was based on U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports compiled by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in 2005, Budkie said.

The BU Medical School did not suggest "alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals," according to the May 2, 2005 USDA report.

"Many of the violations are things [SAEN] feels are very serious in nature," Budkie said.

The USDA inspection reports, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act -- a law allowing public accessibility to government reports -- can take six months to several years to acquire, said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals senior researcher Alka Chandna. PETA is a worldwide animal rights organization aimed at eliminating animal suffering.

The Food and Drug Administration recently noted that 92 percent of all drugs tested for safety on animals are found to be either unsafe or ineffective in humans, Chandna said.

"The alternative of flipping a coin would give better results," she said in an email.

Chandna and Budkie both said research facilities should begin to move away from animal testing.

BUMC's 2005 violations were listed under three categories -- veterinary care, environmental enhancement to promote psychological primate wellbeing and problems with the BU Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees. The oversight committees review experiments internally with BU facilities, according to the SAEN report.

The IACUC is responsible for ensuring BU's animal programs, procedures and facilities are consistent with federal laws. The committee reviews and approves all animal research projects before the project begins, Berlin said.

Committee members are comprised of "community representatives as well as scientists, veterinarians, occupational health experts and others," Berlin said in an email. IACUC has locations on the BUMC and the Charles River Campus.

"BU is engaged in biomedical research to understand basic biological processes, causes of disease and methods of treatment," she said.

"This research covers diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurosciences and infectious diseases."

The committee members, along with a professional veterinary staff, are "focused on ensuring that research is conducted in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and at the highest standards designed to provide for the best animal welfare," Berlin said.

"All research involving animals is monitored by the IACUC to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Regulations and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals," she said.

Budkie said the USDA should enforce the welfare act and better regulate the number of labs in violation of the act.

"The USDA should be able to close a lab down if the conditions are bad enough," he said. "They currently don't have that authority."

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