Humane Society Cites VCU Animal Rights Violations
The Humane Society of the United States, citing government reports, says Virginia Commonwealth University has violated federal standards of care for laboratory animals.
The Humane Society used the Freedom of Information Act to look, among other things, at U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports and documents.
Conlee: We have looked into animal research that’s going at Virginia Commonwealth and became very concerned with a number of incidents that have occurred there in recent times.
The Humane Society’s Kathleen Conlee.
Conlee: We have been urging this institution to adopt a policy that will prohibit animals from experienced severe and unrelieved pain and distress, so therefore severe suffering.
In Virginia, James Madison University, Virginia State University and Blue Ridge Community College have animal treatment policies in place now.
Conlee: We believe what we found from the institution is egregious incidents that are unacceptable and just further reason for this school to take our request seriously and adopt a policy.
Conlee, the Director of Program Management for the Humane Society’s Animal Research Issues, documented incidents as far back as 2005.
Conlee: A number of sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- their inspection report -- as well as reports the institution itself has reported to the National Institutes of Health, as it is required to do by law.
A rabbit died in its cage when it was sent through a cage washer that used water up to 180 degrees. Other reports talk about mice dying because their cases were carelessly stacked one on top of the other. 132 more died when a lab’s heating and air conditioning malfunctioned.
Conlee: Just looking at these instances it seems there is a culture there where it’s carelessness and totally unacceptable. The Humane Society of the United States believes that adopting a policy will prevent this culture of carelessness that’s happening in institutions where they are going to be expected to take these issues seriously. Otherwise this will continue.
In 2008 the Department of Agriculture found monkeys were housed alone. a violation of a federal standard.
Conlee: Obviously we have concerns with any animal that is experiencing pain, distress and suffering and so on, but there is particular concern about primates who are housed alone, for example. That’s extremely distressful to these animals and not normal for their behavior.
Nationally 55 colleges and universities have animal treatment policies.
Conlee: This is a very modest request. We are asking for no severe and unrelieved pain and distress; we are not asking for an end to animal use. Now certainly if there are alternatives available, they should be using them. But this policy is focused on the most severe forms of suffering.
The Society, Conlee adds, is not alone in its call for more schools to step up.
Conlee: Seventy-five percent of the public opposes animal research that causes extreme suffering, so the public is on our side.
There is, she says, some resistance.
Conlee: That is the typical reaction. They don’t want to make changes or make waves. They often refer to existing laws, but I must point out that the existing law does allow research that causes animal suffering, severe animal suffering, and we think that’s poor science. That’s an important point. If your animal is suffering in a laboratory, that’s poor science. Poor welfare equals poor science. We want to see that changed.
The Humane Society says it first contacted VCU in July of 2009, asking for adoption of a lab policy that would not subject animals to severe and unrelieved pain or stress. So far, Conlee says, that hasn’t happened.
John Ogle, WCVE News.