Los Angeles Independent - News Animal watchdog group charges UCLA animal research unlawful
Los Angeles Independent - News
Animal watchdog group charges UCLA animal research unlawful
By Elizabeth Schneider
Last week the watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed an official complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture alleging that 47 laboratories, including UCLA's Brain Research Institute, are in violation of the Federal Welfare Animal Act.
The result of SAEN's audit of 50 nationally known laboratories, all which use primates as research subjects, found that of those laboratories only 6 percent -- three laboratories -- were in compliance with requirements outlined in the AWA.
UCLA officials, who were unaware that such an audit was even conducted, denied the allegations.
"UCLA strictly adheres to all university, state and federal guidelines regarding animal research," says Dan Page, assistant director of health sciences communications at UCLA.
According to federal regulations, SAEN says, whenever any regulated species is used in experimentation that is potentially painful or stressful without benefit of anesthesia, these procedures are to be reported as such to the USDA, and the number of affected animals is to be listed.
"These laboratories are being dishonest with the way they report their animal use," SAEN executive director Michael Budkie says.
Budkie, an animal health technician, says that researchers at UCLA are conducting experiments that are virtually identical to other procedures being done across the country.
This too, he says, is in violation of the AWA stance on "unnecessarily duplicative" experimentation.
Several sources of information were used for the audit, says Budkie, including the USDA website, which posts the annual reports from laboratories, medial journal articles, additional USDA documents including lab inspection reports and in some instances documents obtained from specific facilities through the Freedom of Information Act.
Page says the university adheres to strict regulations in its animal research:
¥ An Animal Research Committee, comprised of 10 faculty members, a campus bio-safety officer, two veterinarians and three community members, advises the chancellor in the care and use of research animals.
¥ According to the university, the Department of Health and Human Services funds most of the school's animal research through the National Institutes of Health.
¥ A staff of five veterinarians, nine veterinary technicians and 45 animal-care technicians monitors all of the animals used in the university's research.
According to Jerry Friedman, a law student working with SAEN, the current practice of "institutional self-regulation" used by laboratories throughout the United States is seriously flawed.
"The USDA wants to have a hands-off approach," Friedman says. "But this audit shows that the scientists can't be trusted to follow the laws. Not only are they wasting taxpayer money by conducting duplicate studies, these experiments cause unbearable suffering to animals."
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