Atrocities in the Laboratory; Terrible Treatment of Research Animals Is unjustifiable.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Atrocities in the Laboratory; Terrible Treatment of Research Animals Is unjustifiable.(OPED)


Byline: Christopher J. Heyde, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Picture this: a researcher using scissors to cut the heads off conscious, unanaesthetized animals before removing their brains. The researcher then admits that this violates his research protocol, but ignores it for convenience. Another experimenter at the same facility has been injecting tumor cells in animals without authorization, then allows the tumors to grow so big they exceed size limits permitted by the facility.

No, these aren't mad scientists in a late-night horror movie; it is actual video documentation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research department taken earlier this past year.

In California, at the world's largest independent biotechnology company, Amgen, inadequately anesthetized animals were sliced open and had their organs cut out by a research assistant despite protests from veterinarians and a technician. The research assistant performing this barbaric act had twice been cited for causing pain and distress to animals. At the University of Connecticut laboratory animals were housed in a room without proper air circulation, and suffocated. At experimental laboratories across the country, animals that had not been killed have been disposed of in trash cans or stored in freezers while still alive. At the University of Hawaii, an animal in the freezer who was discovered had attempted to chew his way out.

I am not opposed to research. I am appalled that these atrocities occurred in U.S. laboratories, which happened in part because the overwhelming majority of animals used in research have been denied legal protection. There is a federal law, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets minimum standards for the care and treatment of laboratory animals. Unfortunately, earlier this year, outgoing Sen. Jesse Helms, at the behest of the National Association for Biomedical Research, sponsored an amendment to the highly contentious farm bill to exclude 95 percent of the animals used for experimentation from this law first passed in 1966 and amended to include all warm-blooded animals in 1970 - that's 25 million animals a year. As a courtesy to a departing Mr. Helms, Congress did not prevent his detrimental proposal, and it became law.

The animals used in the experiments described above being denied the modest protection of the AWA are birds, mice and rats. One doesn't have to be their fan to feel they shouldn't suffer unnecessarily simply because they are birds, mice and rats. I don't believe that's asking too much of our esteemed scientists. But the association has a different agenda. …

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