Animal Liberation Week
World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week is the week that surrounds April 24th every year - It's a national week of protests, media events, etc. at laboratories to stop testing and research on animals
The Animal Experimentation Scandal:
In general the trend appears to be towards an increase in animal experimentation. The total of all of the National Institutes of Health-funded projects involving the listed animals (macaca, saimiri, rat, mouse, dog, cat, guinea pig, hamster& rabbit,) for fiscal 2001 is 29,441. This means that there are literally tens of thousands of different animal experiments funded by the NIH every year. The total for 1997 (a five-year span) is 24,891. The increase from 1997 to 2001 is 4,550 new grants, or an increase of 18.3%. The 1992 total is 21,448. Using this number we now have a ten-year span to examine. This shows an increase of 7,993 projects or 37.3%. This trend does not involve dollars spent or animals used. It examines only the actual number of grants awarded by the NIH.
The numbers of projects involving dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters have all decreased. The down side of this is that the experiments using macaque monkeys, squirrel monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, rats, and mice have all increased, in some cases dramatically. Mouse projects have increased by almost 51% over the last five years, and by 127% since 1992. Chimpanzee experiments have increased by 81.3% in the last ten years. Baboon protocols have increased by 82% in the last ten years. Other species have seen slower increases over the last ten years with macaque monkey experiments increasing by 50% and squirrel monkey projects going up by a mere 36%.
We may be able to come up with a very general approximation of how much the NIH spends on animal experiments every year. The NIH publishes average dollar amounts per grant. For the year 2000, the average grant was $291,502. For 2000, there were 29,855 projects listed from our searches. This gives us a potential total of more than $8,7 billion. There are another 651 projects involving species that were not mentioned above. However, for a final estimate we should be conservative. The use of the CRISP system introduces a potential for duplication in the searches discussed above (i.e. the same grant could use more than one species and therefore show up in the totals multiple times). This can be counteracted to some degree by the non-inclusion of the 651 projects listed above. And, again, to be conservative, I would estimate that the NIH spends $8 – $8.5 billion a year on animal experiments. This estimate is also on the conservative side because it does not include a component for the indirect costs associated with all NIH grants.
If specific institutions are examined in the same way, we can arrive at estimates for the funding received for specific laboratories from the NIH for the performance of animal experimentation. Many facilities receive well over $100 million a year for the performance of animal experiments, with funding amounts for some labs approaching $200 million (please see Appendix A for funding estimates for specific facilities). Thirty facilities were examined for NIH annual funding estimations; 56.7% of the facilities examined received over $100 million a year from the NIH for performing animal experiments.
This finding of a significant increase in the number of grants funded by the National Institutes of Health leads to several questions. Perhaps the most important of these questions deals with the issue of duplication. Are all of these research projects necessary? Are any of these grants redundant? Are those researchers who are being trusted by the NIH to perform medical research defrauding the American taxpayer?
While it is not within the scope of this audit to answer questions of this nature, certain conclusions can be drawn from a relatively limited number of additional searches that have been run using the CRISP system.
In order to deal with this potential for duplication within the NIH grant system some basic searches were performed via the CRISP system. Three species were used: rats, mice and macaque monkeys (chosen to illustrate both ends of the evolutionary scale). The results of these searches were very disturbing. There are currently (for fiscal 2001) 171 separate projects that examine neural information processing in macaque monkeys. Since neural information processing could still be a potentially large area, the topic was refined further.
Visual neural information processing in macaque monkeys brought up 123 separate projects within the CRISP system, 286 projects study cocaine in rats, 109 projects study cocaine in mice, and 55 projects study cocaine in macaque monkeys. This is a total of 450 projects studying cocaine in three different species (please see Appendices B – F for specific grant listings). If we use the average grant amount posted by the NIH on their website ($291,502), this gives us an estimated total of $131,175,900 annually spent on addiction research in only three species of animals.
It must also be noted that some of these grants have been in existence for decades. Specifically, several of the grants in the area of neural information processing in macaque monkeys have been in existence for over 30 years, with one reaching 38 years of age. This type of information spawns several further questions. If this area has been studied by dozens of researchers for decades, why are new grants continually appearing in this field? If decades of study have not garnered worthwhile information, why are more grants being approved? If the decades-old grants are not sufficient to examine the field, necessitating new grants, why do the old grants continue to be renewed?
From a monetary point of view this kind of duplication is potentially catastrophic. The hundreds of millions of dollars that the NIH spends every year to fund medical research using animals may well be going into a bottomless pit of duplication that accomplishes nothing other than funneling hundreds of millions of tax dollars into the coffers of nationally known laboratories.
We may be told that this funding system is well supervised and that the system does not allow for waste. However, animal based experimentation potentially brings hundreds of millions of dollars into many U.S. laboratories on an annual basis. In light of the fact that these institutions receive so much federal funding, it is highly likely that duplicative experimentation is funded on a regular basis. Many of the people that evaluate these projects are part of the animal experimentation system themselves. We may be dealing with a good ol’ boys network where "I’ll approve your research if you’ll approve mine." There may be far too little independent oversight, with far too many of the individuals involved in the approval process having a vested interest in the outcome of any decision regarding the validity of a project.
At the facility level, the membership of Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees (which is responsible for institutional protocol approval) are heavily weighted with people who either perform animal experiments or individuals who otherwise have a vested interest (affiliated veterinarians) in the performance of animal experimentation. Do they have any real motivation for declining to approve a project? It appears that the only real motivation may be to approve every project because each additional grant brings more money into the laboratory.
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