Animal-Rights Group Says Universities Underreport Potentially Painful
Animal-Rights Group Says Universities Underreport Potentially Painful Experiments
By DAN CURRY Chronicle of Higher Education 9/14/01
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing a complaint filed by a national animal-rights group that accuses nearly 50 universities of misreporting how many animals are used in potentially painful experimentation. The Cincinnati-based group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, also claims that scientists have performed needless surgery on animals, restrained them inappropriately, and deprived them of food and water.
The group compared descriptions of the experiments in the institutions' annual reports posted on an Agriculture Department Web site to the research put out by the universities that would have required painful procedures to be used on animals. Forty-seven out of 50 institutions reviewed by the group had failed to accurately report the level of pain to which animals had been subjected in their labs, the group said.
Although the complaint was filed two months ago, many scientists became aware of it only in the last two days, when the group held news conferences in Seattle, Boston, and Los Angeles, in order to draw attention to the underreporting of the institutions in those cities and others. A spokesman for the department confirmed that it is now reviewing the complaint.
"The science community is trying to put a good face on the kind of work they are doing," said Michael A. Budkie, executive director of the animal-rights group. "Brain-mapping research, bolting recording cylinders into research animals' skulls, depriving them of food and water -- these kinds of research projects are not the kind of things that a good, wholesome university wants to talk about."
At a press conference in Boston on Wednesday, Mr. Budkie criticized brain-mapping experiments being conducted at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as drug-addiction studies at McLean Hospital. Mr. Budkie said that animals at those institutions had been deprived of food or water, and had been subjected to pain without anesthesia, yet the institutions had not properly reported those facets of their studies to the Agriculture Department.
Harvard and McLean officials could not be reached for comment. In a Boston Herald article, officials of both institutions denied Mr. Budkie's accusations.
In an interview, Kenneth D. Campbell, director of the MIT news office, also denied the allegations. MIT is reviewed by federal, state, local, and internal oversight boards, and no violations of animal welfare had been found, Mr. Campbell said. Jim Rogers, an Agriculture Department spokesman, said there was no record of any animal-welfare violations at the three Boston-area institutions.
"We're not depriving the animals of water ordinarily, and they get juice as a reward after a two- or three-hour session," Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Campbell also said that the group's charges of misreporting were unfounded.
Yet that part of the group's complaint has received some support. The Humane Society of the United States, in a report issued last year, found a similar pattern of underreporting across research institutions, said Andrew N. Rowan, a senior vice president at the society.
"We cannot say that pain and distress are being ignored in these laboratories," Mr. Rowan said Thursday. "However, we are concerned that the reporting currently isn't doing what it should, informing the public."
The National Association for Biomedical Research, a lobbying group for universities and businesses that supports the use of animals in research, also acknowledged that the complaint might have a point.
"There may be room for reasonable people to disagree," said an association spokeswoman who asked not to be named. "Reporting should be accurate. We welcome any level of scrutiny to the care and use of animals."
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