SAEN accuses University of rat abuse

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http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/12/12/29639/

SAEN accuses University of rat abuse

By Daniel Santoro, DailyPrincetonian.com, Monday, December 12, 2011

In a press release published on its website last Thursday, the animal activist group Stop Animal Exploitation Now! accused the University of allowing at least 10 laboratory rats to die of starvation.
According to the account by an anonymous former laboratory employee, the rats were not given food or water in what was perhaps a miscommunication between animal staff and research staff. Two of the rats starved to death after a period of days and those remaining needed to be euthanized.

SAEN’s founder and Executive Director, Michael Budkie, would not divulge any information about the anonymous contact or acknowledge whether this “whistleblower” was the same source that had provided an account in September detailing multiple instances of research misconduct dating back to 2004 and graphic pictures of the University’s lab.

Rats and mice are specifically excluded from the Animal Welfare Act even though they are the most commonly used creatures in research. Also excluded are birds, horses and other farm animals. The AWA is the only U.S. legislation of its kind that protects research animals.

The USDA is the organization charged with upholding the AWA through monthly inspections of testing spaces.

“With nonhuman primates, we can easily access USDA records,” Budkie said. “[With rats] I can’t even tell you how many are used in research because no institutions exist to prevent or penalize misconduct.”

“Institutions may well feel that they can abuse [rats] because they can’t be penalized,” Budkie said. Budkie has been at the front of the campaign against University laboratory conduct since early September. Last Friday, SAEN organized a protest at the corner of Washington Road and Nassau Street.

Additionally, a commercial detailing the University’s recent misconduct with nonhuman primate testing began airing in November on major networks including CNN, Fox and Animal Planet. The commercial was created by SAEN to raise awareness in the community.

The University has been accused of animal testing misconduct multiple times this year. Past inspection reports by the USDA show that the University received six violations in 2011 and 11 in 2010.

This past June, the USDA also sent a formal warning to the University threatening that each additional violation would incur a fine of $3,750.

“Since the staff at Princeton cannot follow the Animal Welfare Act, they should end testing on nonhuman primates,” Budkie said. “Clearly, from our press release today, we are concerned with all species handled at Princeton.”

University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua has said that the University takes all allegations seriously and reviews procedures regularly to prevent future incidents. He has reiterated the importance of animal research on humans, the environment and even other animal species.

“In the past few years we have been strengthening our oversight of animal research by reviewing Princeton’s Institutional Animals Care and Use procedures and hiring additional regulatory compliance personnel,” Mbugua has said.

According to Mbugua, a review of the University compliance hotline, one in which any employee may submit an anonymous concern, did not find any of the misconduct allegations detailed in the “whistleblower” account provided to SAEN in September.

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