Tag Archives: labs

How mice are like humans, how they aren’t, and why it matters

By Kathy Guillermo

A recent study published in the journal Science Advances concluded that mice can transfer their heightened pain sensitivity to other mice through scent cues. This paper is the latest in a long line showing that these tiny animals deserve our respect, yet the very people who gather the data fail to draw the obvious conclusion: We must stop treating mice as though they have no emotions or feelings — because it’s been proved over and over again that they do.

To reach this latest conclusion, experimenters at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) first had to make mice acutely sensitive to pain — a terrible process in and of itself — and then determine whether other mice had become super-sensitive by inflicting additional painful procedures on them.

Certainly, nothing good came of this study for the mice involved. Some were injected with a substance that induces long-lasting inflammation. Others were addicted to morphine or alcohol and then made to endure an agonizing withdrawal process.

They were poked with plastic filaments. Their tails were dipped in hot water, and their paws were injected with an irritant to see how much they licked the site.

If these inhumane procedures had been inflicted outside the laboratory, they’d have warranted cruelty-to-animals charges. But mice in laboratories are exempt from even the most meager of protections under the law. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, they aren’t even defined as “animals.”

Other studies have shown that mice form long-lasting bonds, are good mothers, feel empathy and even giggle (at frequencies that we can’t hear). They have a fundamental right to live without being tormented by humans.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with imprisoning and exploiting mice in laboratories. While they are like humans in many ways, such as the ability to suffer, in others, they are entirely different.

There is abundant evidence that experiments on animals rarely yield findings that end up being clinically useful for humans. One study found that fewer than 10 percent of promising discoveries coming out of basic animal research make their way into clinical use within 20 years.

One large, multi-institution study found few similarities between the genetic response in mice to things that cause inflammation—such as burns, trauma and infection—and the response in humans. In some cases, the reactions were actually the opposite.

And dozens of papers are released each month on rodent studies of diabetes, despite vast differences in the way rodents regulate glucose and the way the disease progresses in them compared with in humans.

By any definition, that’s a pretty dismal track record.

“I think we’ve got ourselves into a mess right now, with lab mice in particular.”

That’s Joseph Garner, an associate professor in the Department of Comparative Medicine at Stanford University, speaking in a recent interview in New Scientist magazine. Garner says that researchers need to ask themselves if animals are truly modeling human disease. “Increasingly, they are not,” he says. “So we end up learning a great deal about how mice respond to various compounds, but it’s irrelevant to humans and an enormous waste of money.”

What is relevant to human medicine is research that uses superior non-animal methods, such as sophisticated computer modeling, engineered human tissue and organs on microchips, which can gauge the effectiveness of drugs on human cells. In fact, Harvard University just announced the development of a 3-D-printed heart-on-a-chip, which will pave the way for rapid customization to an individual patient’s cells.

So perhaps it’s time for OHSU—and others who continue to conduct archaic experiments on animals—to embrace modern, non-animal research methods and develop some empathy of their own.

It’s time for laboratories to get out of the monkey business

By Dr. Alka Chandna

In 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made the historic decision to retire the majority of federally owned chimpanzees from use in experiments. While this was a monumental victory for chimpanzees, there are still 110,000 monkeys and other primates imprisoned in U.S. laboratories.

A new PETA eyewitness investigation at a company in Florida that sells monkeys to laboratories is shining a spotlight on the need for urgent action for these animals as well.

For eight months, a witness worked at Florida-based Primate Products, Inc. (PPI), a notorious primate dealer that imports hundreds of monkeys each year and warehouses and then sells them to laboratories. PPI has been awarded federal contracts worth more than $13 million—including by NIH, the Army and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PPI also sends monkeys to universities and contract testing conglomerates across the country

The witness documented that some monkeys with painful injuries, including exposed bones, were left to suffer without adequate veterinary care for days. One monkey was denied adequate medical treatment for an exposed vertebra in her tail for at least a week, despite the fact that the witness had notified a supervisor, a PPI manager and another worker repeatedly about the injury.

Many monkeys were confined to virtually barren concrete pens littered with feces and old food with other stressed and apparently incompatible monkeys, sometimes for months at a time. While monkeys, like humans, are highly social animals, the severe psychological stress of being imprisoned in a small space with strangers and given virtually nothing to do probably contributed to fights among the animals. With no escape, subordinate monkeys lived in constant fear of attack by aggressive monkeys as well as by their human captors.

One monkey, named Loretta by the witness, was left penned with the very monkeys who had injured and apparently terrified her for more than 22 weeks, despite at least 23 written and verbal reports to PPI staff that she was being attacked and appeared to be afraid of the other monkeys. Loretta’s face was frequently lacerated, and she had extensive hair loss. Another monkey, whom the witness named Sweet P, was forced to live for more than two weeks with monkeys who had attacked her. She was finally moved but was then kept isolated in a barren metal cage for 20 days—during which time PPI’s behaviorist admitted to having forgotten about her.

Monkeys were also terrorized by PPI workers who chased them and grabbed them by their sensitive tails. Workers aggressively swung nets at them, yanked them off the fences that they desperately clung to and even hurled them into nets.

Other monkeys were confined all alone to tiny, bleak metal cages. Locked in isolation and denied suitable companionship, which is crucial to their mental and physical health—just as it is to ours—some of these psychologically distressed monkeys rocked back and forth and paced in circles, likely signs of intense boredom and distress.

Though temperatures dipped to as low as 35°F, most monkeys kept outside were denied heat throughout the winter, leading to frostbite and apparently even the death of at least one monkey in an outdoor enclosure.

In 2014 alone, PPI imported 1,000 monkeys from Asia and Africa—63 percent of whom, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents, were taken from their families and homes in the wild.

These animals are eventually trucked to government agencies, universities and contract testing laboratories, including facilities that blast monkeys with radiation, drill into their skulls, test sexual lubricants on their rectums and intentionally infect them with an HIV-like virus that causes crippling AIDS-like symptoms, even though every single HIV vaccine developed using monkeys has failed in humans.

Recognizing this chain of abuse, nearly every major airline in the world now refuses to transport monkeys to PPI or any other laboratory or dealer.

PETA is working toward a day when every cage in every laboratory is empty. Readers can make a difference by urging their members of Congress to push the National Institutes of Health to fund more modern and superior non-animal research instead of cruel and ineffective experiments on monkeys and other animals.

Cruelty shouldn’t fly

By Michelle Kretzer

 Would you board a flight if you knew that under your feet in the cargo hold, there would be terrified monkeys on their way to a laboratory, where they would be tortured and killed? Few people would. Perhaps that’s why almost every major passenger airline in the world now refuses to accept blood money for shipping primates to their deaths.

 Every major airline, that is, except for one.

 Earlier this year, world-renowned primate expert Dr. Jane Goodall sent a stern e-mail to Air France urging the company to end its part in this cruel trade.

 Dr. Goodall explains that in their natural homes, long-tailed monkeys—the species that Air France ships most often to laboratories—form strong bonds, live in groups of up to 30 individuals and “travel up to a mile a day playing, foraging for food and socializing with one another.” She adds, “Babies are nursed by their mothers until they are more than a year old and females remain in the same social groups for life with their mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins. These social, intelligent primates can live to be more than 30 years old.” But monkeys in laboratories don’t get to experience any of this.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild in Asia and Africa, companies supplying monkeys to laboratories pay trappers to shoot the mothers from trees with dart guns and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are then tossed into bags or cages with little to no food or water and taken to filthy monkey breeding facilities. After the babies are born, they are torn away from their mothers in order to be sold to experimenters in Europe and the U.S.

 Every year, thousands of these monkeys are locked inside tiny crates and loaded into the dark cargo holds of planes for terrifying multistop journeys that can last more than 30 hours.

 Once the monkeys arrive at their final destinations, they are locked inside barren cages all alone and forced to undergo painful, invasive and traumatic experiments. They may be force-fed experimental chemicals, addicted to cocaine, or given infectious diseases such as botulism or bubonic plague, or they may have holes drilled into their skulls. Babies are also torn from their mothers simply for the purpose of studying the harm caused by the resulting psychological distress. Afterward, the monkeys are often killed.

Primates are sensitive, intelligent individuals who belong in the wild with their families. They are not laboratory equipment or cargo.

 After learning from PETA and our affiliates around the globe how primates suffer in experiments and after hearing from outraged customers who demanded that they stop the practice, other major airlines—including Air Canada, American Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa and United Airlines—made the compassionate decision to end their involvement in this dirty business. As a result, imports of primates to U.S. laboratories have dropped by one-third in recent years, and there’s been a 15 percent decrease in the total number of primates imprisoned in these laboratories. This trend must continue.

 You can’t escape your reputation, even at 30,000 feet. It’s time for every airline to refuse to deliver primates to a life of pain and misery inside a laboratory.

A mouse is not a man — or a tool

By Kathy Guillermo

There are two lessons to be learned from the startling new study reporting that decades of burn, sepsis and trauma experiments on mice have led nowhere: First, mice aren’t good stand-ins for humans. The second one I’ll get to in a minute.

The study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, examined human cells and found that what happens to mice when they’re burned and infected isn’t the same as what happens to people. The time and resources spent using mice to try to figure out how to treat humans are “a heartbreaking loss of decades of research and billions of dollars,” according to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins. Scientists now understand why all 150 drugs developed using these animals failed in human patients. The study’s lead author stated, “[Researchers] are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.”

The cost to everyone—patients, taxpayers and mice—is enormous.

Here’s the second lesson: If scientists and their funders had taken the ethical course from the start—that is, if they had not harmed and killed some beings in an effort to help others—we might be much further along scientifically. As a nation, we’d be more progressive ethically, too.

Look at some of the burn studies now being conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Mice, dogs, sheep and pigs are burned over as much as 40 percent of their bodies with a scorching-hot metal rod or the open flame of a Bunsen burner. The animals suffer for weeks before they are killed. In some of the experiments, animals are also forced to inhale smoke to injure the lining of their respiratory tract.

It’s tempting to say that now we know that the mice—and likely the dogs, pigs and sheep—suffered for nothing. They surely did. (And now, as PETA supporter Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story: The university fired three supervisors and was fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after PETA provided evidence that the animals were denied adequate pain relief for their burns.)

Animals have suffered for decades in dead-end laboratory searches for cures for human ailments. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that 90 percent of drugs that test safe and effective in animals either fail to work in humans or harm them. A 90 percent failure rate should be unacceptable. It’s certainly ample evidence that animals, while they no doubt feel pain and want to lead their own lives, are nevertheless not biological replicas of humans. Recent landmark reports have even found that chimpanzees, humans’ closest genetic relatives, are terrible models of human ailments.

If animals had been left out of this scientific equation, would science be further along in its quest for drugs to treat burn and trauma patients? What avenue not pursued might have been the right path to helping people?

But even if experimenters had learned something useful, it would still be wrong to take a Bunsen burner to a tiny mouse. It is wrong to lay a red-hot metal bar against the body of a dog. It is wrong to take a blowtorch to the sensitive skin of a pig. It is wrong to poison, infect, manipulate and cut up animals in a laboratory.

We all owe the authors of this study a huge thank-you. They have proved once again that it is modern studies using human cells, not deadly experiments on animals, that will actually help people who have been badly burned. But now is a good time to learn the larger lesson: We can and must solve human problems without harming animals.

Were animals the Colorado theater killer’s first victims?

By Alka Chandna

As our nation grieves the massacre at Aurora, Colorado’s Century 16 multiplex, the recurring question in many of our minds is, “How?” How could anyone be so cruel, so violent, so numb to the suffering of others that he could blast away unsuspecting victims in cold blood and not display a hint of remorse?

There is no easy explanation for such senseless violence, and there is never an excuse or justification for it. But a look into alleged shooter James E. Holmes’ history reveals that he was immersed in a field of study—neuroscience—in which violence against helpless sentient beings is deeply ingrained.

Neuroscience departments at universities across the country subject animals to painful, terrifying experiments. In a decades-long series of highly invasive experiments to study visual tracking, monkeys have coils implanted in both eyes; the tops of their skulls cut off so that electrodes can be inserted into their brains; and screws, bolts and plates attached directly to their skulls so that their heads can be bolted into place. The monkeys are then kept constantly thirsty so that they will cooperate for a sip of water. Experimenters call this “developing a work ethic.”

In other experiments, the tops of cats’ skulls are lopped off; solitary squirrel monkeys are locked inside steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, and strapped into restraint chairs and shocked; and baby monkeys are snatched from their mothers so that experimenters can measure the impact that this early-life trauma has on addiction in the monkeys.

In addition to likely being exposed to torturous experiments such as these, according to his résumé, Holmes participated in brain-mapping experiments on songbirds, in which it is likely that holes were drilled into the birds’ heads and electrodes implanted in their brains. Holmes also participated in the dissection of hummingbirds and mice—which desensitizes students to the sanctity of life and which, as research suggests, can foster callousness toward animals and nature.

How can being exposed to such routine cruelty and violence and being told that it’s “normal” do anything but erode a person’s ethics? Most people who cut into the brains of monkeys don’t go on shooting sprees at their local movie theater, but the violence of experiments on animals is so egregious and the suffering that they cause is so extreme, couldn’t exposing an emotionally disturbed person—as Holmes apparently is—to such violence be enough to destroy his or her last ounce of empathy for others? Every person who is forced to dissect, imprison, harm and kill animals in a laboratory must set aside normal feelings of empathy and compassion, which is its own kind of tragedy.

There is no reason to continue subjecting animals—and science students—to this obscene violence. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, human tissue- and cell-based research methods, cadavers, sophisticated high-fidelity human-patient simulators and computational models are more reliable, more precise, less expensive and far more humane than animal experiments.

We may not be able to stop all violent tragedies, but the tools to end senseless violence in laboratories are already at our disposal. We can—and should—use them instead of causing more innocent victims to suffer.

2011: a surprisingly good year for animals

By Heather Moore

2011 was tough—when people weren’t bemoaning budget cuts, lining up outside job fairs or fretting over the stagnant housing market, they were listening to worrisome news about the war in Afghanistan, political shootings and natural disasters. But things weren’t all bad. There were signs of progress and reasons to be positive, especially when it comes to issues that impact animals. As we head into the new year, let’s reflect upon some of the things that made 2011 memorable for animals.

Eight of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including MetLife, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial and U.S. Bank, stopped using glue traps after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained that animals who get stuck in them often suffocate and die slowly. The Social Security Administration, Georgia Institute of Technology and Toronto District School Board—the fourth-largest school district in North America—also agreed to use more humane methods of rodent control.

While this is hardly revolutionary, it is indicative of a larger social movement to reform practices that harm animals. Many people are now less likely to accept activities that cause suffering—and it shows in our laws and business practices.

In 2011, West Hollywood became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur. City council members in Toronto and Irvine, Calif., banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Rodeos and circuses that feature exotic animals were also prohibited in Irvine, and Fulton County—the most populous municipality in Georgia—banned the use of bullhooks, sharp steel-tipped devices that are commonly used to beat, jab or yank on elephants.

The American Zoological Association (AZA) announced that bullhooks will be forbidden at all AZA-accredited zoos by 2014. The Toronto Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its remaining elephants to a facility that does not use bullhooks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which routinely uses bullhooks to “discipline” captive elephants, with a $270,000 fine—the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history—for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Also in 2011, eight top advertising agencies pledged never again to feature great apes—who are often torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and beaten in order to force them to perform on cue—in their advertisements. Capital One pulled an ad featuring a chimpanzee and pledged not to use nonhuman primates in its advertisements again. The blockbuster film Rise of the Planet of the Apes featured CGI animation to create realistic-looking apes without exploiting and abusing animals.

U.S. Army officials announced that monkeys will no longer be used in a cruel chemical nerve-agent attack training course at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The University of Michigan, Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City and Naval Medical Center San Diego began using sophisticated simulators instead of live cats for intubation training. And the world’s largest tea-maker, Unilever—maker of Lipton and PG tips—stopped experimenting on pigs and other animals just so that it could make health claims about its tea.

Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign—local restaurants, schools, hospitals and businesses are now promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. The board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., also signed a “Meatless Mondays” resolution, and several more celebrities, including Russell Brand, Eliza Dushku and Ozzy Osbourne, went vegan in 2011. The Rev. Al Sharpton also ditched meat from his diet.

Many of these developments were brought about, at least in part, by PETA, but everyone can bring about change simply by resolving to be kinder, greener and healthier in the coming year. By taking simple steps such as buying cruelty-free products, choosing meatless meals, wearing animal-friendly fashions and enjoying animal-free entertainment, we can all help make 2012 even better than 2011.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation.

Public joins Humane Society in urging Harvard University to prohibit severe animal suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:

Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.
Severe Animal Suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:
Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

Kicking the habit helps animals, too

By Heather Moore

The Great American Smokeout was November 18. While everyone knows that smoking is harmful to humans, contributing to cancer, coronary heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, relatively few people realize that animals are also dying because of cigarettes. Not only can our beloved animal companions develop cancer from secondhand smoke, just as humans can, monkeys, mice, rats and other animals are cruelly killed in irrelevant laboratory experiments funded by big tobacco companies and government agencies. Continue reading Kicking the habit helps animals, too

Animal suffering in laboratories: a failure to care

By Alka Chandna, Ph.D.

Animal experimenters from Canada’s McGill University recently determined that mice—like humans and other mammals—make grimacing facial expressions when they are in pain. For the study, the ill-fated mice were videotaped after experimenters injected noxious chemicals into their abdomens, ankles, hands and feet; placed them on hot plates; placed their tails in hot water; clamped metal binder clips on the tips of their tails; and performed various surgeries on them without administering pain relief.

The results of the new study should bolster the argument that these animals suffer as we do and should not be treated like disposable laboratory equipment. Instead, the authors are ignoring the moral implications of their findings and will instead use the results as fodder for more dreadful pain experiments on animals. This is like subjecting a person to surgery without anesthesia just to pave the way for further surgeries with anesthesia. There’s simply no good reason for it.

Mice and rats are mammals with nervous systems similar to our Continue reading Animal suffering in laboratories: a failure to care