Things About to Get a Whole Lot Worse for Animals in US Labs

US researchers are “trying to stifle transparency, and make sure that their interests are met and not the animals’” 

Kathleen Conlee of the HSUS

It seems like things are about to get a whole lot worse for the millions of unfortunate animals being tested on in US labs. The Trump administration has a passion for deregulation, unaware (if we’re feeling generous) or not caring (if we’re brutally honest) that regulations were put in place to begin with to provide important legal protections – protections for the environment, for drinking water, for clean air, for safe food, for national parks, for indigenous sacred places etc. And for animals.

The 21st Century Cures Act

To say the first year of the new presidency has kept the newsmen and women busy is an understatement. Trump and the GOP have attempted, and sometimes succeeded, in getting through Congress some very controversial and retrograde bills. But the 21st Century Cures Act Congress passed last month appears to have attracted little press attention.

The Act “is designed to help accelerate medical product development and bring new innovations and advances to patients who need them faster and more efficiently.” So far so good. What’s not to like? But the devil is in the detail. One provision of the Act calls on the USDA, the NIH and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to work together to reduce the “administrative burden” on the researchers and institutions that use animals. Under those two innocuous words lie a worrying threat to lab animals in the USA.

The mishmash that is the current US animal-testing legislation

Admitted, the rules around animal testing are at present quite the mishmash. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees tests on rabbits and larger mammals (800,000 animals in 2016). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) oversees testing on rats, mice and birds – these animals are considered so unimportant that no statistics about them are required to be recorded. Then there are privately-funded animal studies, already pretty much under the regulation-radar.

laboratory animal testing white rat mammal

What’s bugging the scientists

Animal-testing scientists and their universities have grumbled for years about what they see as tedious and time-wasting red tape, the paperwork they are required to complete, and the regulations they are required to adhere to. Now the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and three other groups have joined forces in a new report to demand –

“Moving all oversight to a single agency, conducting less frequent lab inspections, and giving researchers greater say in crafting new rules”

Can you hear the alarm bells ringing? Well, you are not alone. Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society (HSUS) says, “It’s clear this would negatively impact animal welfare.” 

These are the present legal requirements scientists find so irksome:-

  • Animal facilities must be inspected by university committees every 6 months
  • Test protocols must be reviewed by the universities every year
  • Researchers must submit their protocols long before they get grants, and need to complete and resubmit more paperwork if the protocols change
  • Worst of all as far as the scientists are concerned, they are required to check the literature for “less invasive alternatives” before opting to test on animals
What the scientists want

So this is what the scientists are calling for:-

  • Animal facility inspections once a year instead of every 6 months
  • Protocol reviews reduced to every 3 years
  • Doing away with annual site inspections by government officials. Instead focusing only on facilities with a poor track record
  • Exempting certain types of experiments from full review by the university committees

“The goal”, says Sally Thompson-Iritani, overseer of animal research at the University of Washington, “is getting scientists back to the bench doing their research, and animal care specialists getting back to their animals.” (It’s unclear what she means by “animal care specialists.” Animal care and animal testing are two concepts troublesome to reconcile.)

And there’s worse

I haven’t yet mentioned the two most disquieting of the animal-testing scientists’ proposals:-

  1. Abolishing the requirement to trawl the literature for alternatives to animal testing
  2. Calling on the White House “to create a new advisory panel made up of animal researchers”

Less than a year ago, the company Emulate was proud to announce its new partnership with the FDA to test its organ-chips, a great breakthrough. These organs-on-a-chip have the potential to eliminate the need to test drugs or cosmetics on animals.”  Empty the labs, in other words. How perfect would that be. Apparently the FDA is still committed to this venture. On its website: “FDA has research and development efforts underway to reduce the need for animal testing and to work toward replacement of animal testing.”

How this endeavour will fare going forward if the end-users, the researchers, get their way, who knows. Proposal No.1 is as perverse as it is retrograde and horrifying.

And as for No.2, who will there be to speak for the animals?

Until December 2018

The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has received the animal-testers’ proposals, and has until the December 2018 deadline to present recommendations that comply with Congress’s call to cut the red tape.

Which means we who care about the plight of those millions suffering in US labs have until then to support every possible campaign that is speaking up for the animals.

Update from PETA

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering a move that would let the agency shirk its responsibility to ensure that laboratories are complying with the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). If this happens, laboratories and other animal-abusing industries—including puppy mills, circuses, and roadside zoos—could be allowed to use private, industry-friendly groups to inspect their facilities, leading to even more suffering for animals imprisoned in them and even less transparency.”

If you are a US citizen, have your say in the USDA’s consultation process about the lowering of inspection standards for animals in labs here You have until March 21st to speak up for animals.

Take Action here US citizens only

Or here, everyone

LOTS of petitions by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine here. Everyone can sign

Experimenters Want to Gut Protections for Animals in Labs. You Can Fight Back here (Everyone)

NEAVS’ petition to end cosmetics testing on animals in the US, sign here (US citizens only)

Sign up for NEAVS’ news and action alerts here

Sign up for PETA’s news and action alerts here

Follow the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) on Facebook and Twitter


Source: United States should dramatically retool animal research rules, groups say | Science | AAAS

Related posts

Animal-Cruelty-Free testing methods will be tested by the US Food & Drug Administration 

Throwing Wide the Window on Animal Testing – A Blessing or a Curse?

The True Cost of New Drugs

Taking the Lid Off Animal Research Labs – Don’t Worry, It’s All Good

10 thoughts on “Things About to Get a Whole Lot Worse for Animals in US Labs

  1. Animals, already at the mercy of human beings and their exploitation, are at increased risk now. And activists will see protections they fought for overturned by the new administration.

    Yet, even now the protections afforded animals through law and regulations are dubious. Most laws for animals are crafted to contain enough loopholes to allow selected abuse to continue as usual. The laws are often enacted without sufficient funding to monitor and inspect research facilities. There may be no real will to enforce the laws or punish infractions.

    The Animal Welfare Act, enacted in 1966, to protect animals in research did not fulfill its promises.

    The New England Anti-Vivisection Society has been fighting the abuse of lab animals since 1895. According to their records, the AWA has had many failures: “Often, the USDA has acted to force compliance with the AWA only after activists have exposed violations to the media and Congress. In several instances, testimony and film have indicated major violations of the AWA, even in labs that the USDA had recently inspected and approved.”

    The AWA “does not allow [the USDA] to prevent the use of animals in research or experimentation nor does it exclusively prohibit any experiments regardless of the amount of pain or distress they might cause. The USDA’s 2009 Annual Report indicated that researchers used more than 76,000 (AWA-covered) animals in research that caused unrelieved pain and distress to the animals.”

    Furthermore, the NEAVS notes that noncompliance with the law and its regulations may result in penalties so minimal they pose no real punishment or consequences.

    Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) examined infractions of the AWA and found their numbers increasing in the years they checked. Violations between 2002-2004 increased by 35% and from 2004-2006 they increased by 41%.

    Animal research is a big money maker—apparently too big to stop or restrict.

    It is difficult to get exact numbers, but it is estimated that over 100 million animals are utilized in America every year. The money flows into research universities and keeps faculty employed and helps graduate students get their advanced degrees. The money keeps government-employed scientists busy and pays the wages of their staff. It also gives millions to the business that breed and sell the unfortunate victims, as well as all the laboratory appurtenances required for their upkeep.
    The difficulty in curtaining research is revealed by the protest movement in Washington State that tried to halt the construction of a new Animal Research Care Facility on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
    Protesters numbering in the hundreds marched multiple times on the campus. Some of the marchers wore hoodies and masks, and as a result they inspired new legislation that would make such protests more difficult. SB 5941 “would make it illegal for someone to stand on a sidewalk, road or any public ground with their face covered, unless that person was exempted for religious or myriad other reasons spelled out in the bill.” (The ACLU declared the law would be unconstitutional.)

    In the end, the protests failed to stop the project.

    The building construction continued, but its location is interesting–the facility was built underground! The University says it is because construction space is limited, although other new buildings are at ground level, as usual, but with more storeys to provide needed space. Thus, the new animal lab is more inaccessible than other buildings on campus. But the public is assured that the USDA will continue its unannounced inspections to ensure humane care.

    Most of us deplore the attempts by the new administration to cut regulations, reduce inspections, and allow more control and decision-making by the research community itself, and we fear the effects on the animals.

    But those who will benefit—the researchers and students and their institutions, as well as the businesses that sell the animals and equipment, will be ecstatic. Trump’s evangelical Christian base, who believe in biblical dominionism and the right of human beings to use animals for their own benefit, will not likely object.

    We can hope conditions and suffering of the victims will not get worse. But from what we have learned from undercover investigations, we can wonder if they COULD get worse.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s