Animal activists question UMass Medical School research practices
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Michael F. Collins, Chancellor
[email protected]

Dr. Collins,

University of Massachusetts Medical School negligence has killed over 30 animals. Additionally, conscious animals were decapitated and living animals were found in a carcass freezer. Multiple animals were denied adequate pain relief, while others were used in unapproved procedures. This carelessness must not be tolerated. You must launch an internal investigation of all University of Massachusetts, Medical School, animal experimentation and terminate all responsible lab staff.


Animal activists question UMass Medical School research practices
By Brian Lee,, June 5, 2018

WORCESTER – An Ohio-based organization that monitors the treatment of animals in medical research has called for UMass Medical School to launch an investigation of its animal experimentation practices, and fire all staff who were responsible for what it says were more than 30 “negligent” deaths of rats, mice and fish in a 15-month span.

The group, called Stop Animal Exploitation Now, says it reviews lab practices at every registered research facility in the U.S., and it wrote of its concerns in a letter to the school’s chancellor, Dr. Michael F. Collins, last week.

A UMass Medical spokesperson said the group has sensationalized the school’s research record.

The fact that the medical school had so many compliance issues in a relatively short period of time suggests “a pattern of essentially illegal behavior,” SAEN executive director Michael A. Budkie said Friday.

The organization submitted a records request through the Freedom of Information Act to review 20 reports that UMass Medical School submitted to the government as a requirement for receiving federal National Institutes of Health funding.

From May 2016 to August, four animals died as a result of starvation or dehydration, five from suffocation, 14 as a result of unauthorized brain injections, and seven in surgical deaths in a project involving electric shock, SAEN’s review found.

In addition, there was a severe incident in which conscious animals were decapitated before a heart removal, and three living animals and a “bag of living animals” were found in a carcass freezer, the organization said.

Three other incidents involved the performance of nonsterile surgery or medical procedures, and 10 animals were used in an unauthorized surgery, SAEN said.

The organization’s letter to Dr. Collins asserted the institution had “violated virtually every basic tenet of medical research.”

Mr. Budkie said the incidents described in the documents should never happen.

“We shouldn’t be talking about living animals that end up in carcass freezers,” he said. “We shouldn’t be talking about others that are decapitated without anesthesia. Those are kinds of things that should never happen in any lab anywhere.”

That they happened at UMass repeatedly, he said, was “very disturbing.”

A school spokesperson told a reporter to consider that the source was an activist group.

The spokesperson said that a comparison of what was in the 20 reports versus SAEN’s version was night and day, and frankly, sensationalized.

The spokesperson said humane treatment of animals in research is “near and dear” to the school’s mission “and we take this incredibly serious.”

The official noted that in one instance of a mouse’s death, UMass reported to the National Institutes of Health that there wasn’t water in the cage when it was found. The research protocol calls for water in the cage.

However, this doesn’t necessarily prove that the mouse died of dehydration, the spokesperson said.

“They’re making a leap that hasn’t been proven or even alleged by anyone,” the spokesperson said.

Another report to NIH noted that a researcher hadn’t worn a glove during the administering of anesthesia.

Jim O’Reilly, president of the nonprofit Massachusetts Society for Medical Research, the country’s oldest biomedical research support organization, said SAEN is one of the more “fringe members” of animal activism, and said SAEN’s stated intent is to end the use of all animal models in medical research.

“They go about doing it by chipping away, little by little, eroding public trust, making attacks, ad hominem and otherwise, on the biomedical researchers who are doing, literally, and I’m not trying to hyperbolize, lifesaving research work.”

The federal government mandates that before any kind of a new drug or treatment can be brought to clinical trial, it has to be tested first on two species of animals.

Mr. O’Reilly added that most of the last 100 winners of the Nobel Peace prize in physiology and medicine used animals in their research.

SAEN, he asserted, totally discounts the need for animals in medical research, claiming it’s not necessary, is unreliable, and that the animals are treated poorly and their conditions aren’t sanitary.

Nothing could be further from truth, said Mr. O’Reilly, who’s observed the medical research facilities throughout New England multiple times. He said they are “pristine.”

To suggest an institution like UMass Medical School has been negligent, Mr. O’Reilly said, is inflammatory.

Taking it a step further, and noting that SAEN put out a similar type of story last year, Mr. O’Reilly suggested a motivation.

This is the time of year SAEN puts on its biggest fundraising push in association with an activist conference in Los Angeles, he said, adding that SAEN has to prove it is effective by harming institutions such as UMass.

“They use social media and press releases and entirely blow out of proportion things that they can find because of self-reporting in public disclosure where some oversights may have been made with regard to animal research projects. No matter how minimal, they tend to blow these things out of proportion.” 

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