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December 1, 2011

Taxpayers Join The HSUS in Urging University Laboratories to Prohibit Severe Animal Suffering

More Than 26,000 Taxpayers Call for New Lab Policy

The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to 388 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. “It’s time for universities supported with taxpayer dollars to address this concern.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct research on millions of animals.

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. 
  • Using anesthetics and painkillers.
  • Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
  • Determining the most humane endpoint in advance.
  • Preparing for emergency situations.

Examples of experiments causing severe pain and distress include an Emory University malaria study involving a four-year-old monkey. Nine days after being infected, the monkey had signs of severe malaria. The next day, he had a severe heart murmur, severe anemia and purple spots over his body. The day after, he developed gangrene and began biting his tail. The monkey was finally euthanized two weeks after being infected. A policy that would require this monkey to be euthanized before he was suffering severely would have protected him from prolonged agony.

Background

Since 2008, The HSUS has asked each of the 388 schools at least four times – some were asked five or six times – to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress. Seventy-two of the schools reported that they would not adopt such a policy, while 316 did not respond to any of the requests.

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.

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