U ranks No. 6 on list of most painful labs for animals

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U ranks No. 6 on list of most painful labs for animals

By Andreas Rivera February 14, 2011

The U has received harsh criticism for its animal research from activist groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and now from another group as well. Stop Animal Exploitation NOW put the U on its list of the Top 20 most painful labs in the country. The U is No. 6 on the list, along with Utah State University, ranked No. 2.

Labs on the group's list are rated by how many animals are used in tests that cause pain or distress without the use of pain-relieving drugs. In a 2009 report from the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service acquired by SAEN, the U allegedly used 1,504 guinea pigs in tests without the use of pain relievers.

"Anesthesia is administered to animals whenever warranted, and the conclusion is wrong that if it is not given, then the animal must be in pain," said U spokesman Remi Barron.

The report said pain relievers would negatively affect test results in skin sensitization tests. Animals used in the test experienced slight pain caused by skin irritation that was "occasionally more than momentary," the report said. The researcher and author of the explanation said there wasn't another alternative to the procedure. The report does not state whether any of the animals died.

"Currently with initial self-approval of research protocols by labs, literally anything goes," said Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN. "The public perception that animals in laboratories are protected from pain or distress is an illusion."

The U released a statement that said it follows all federal and state laws concerning animal research: "The university's animal facilities are inspected regularly without advance notice by federal inspectors, and our labs have an excellent long-term record of compliance with all government guidelines for animal care."

The U's appearance on SAEN's list is just the latest of controversies surrounding U animal research. In January, PETA filed a lawsuit against the U for a number of previously redacted documents concerning the animals used in research, namely those acquired from local animal shelters. Barron said he has not heard if a court date has been decided. The lawsuit has yet to appear on Utah's 3rd District Court's agenda.

The Department of Agriculture's report said besides the guinea pigs used in tests without pain relief, 1,171 other animals were used in tests that used pain relief, including dogs, cats, sheep and primates.

Utah State University, which ranked No. 2 on SAEN's list, used 4,572 hamsters in tests without pain relief, according to another report from the Department of Agriculture.

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