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Ask the NIH to Help End Large-Scale Culling of Laboratory Animals

Ask the NIH to Help End Large-Scale Culling of Laboratory Animals

Name: Establish Better Policies for the Care of Animals During a Pandemic

In March 2020, reports emerged of laboratories “downsizing” their animal populations because of smaller working staffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands—probably tens of thousands of animals nationwide—were culled, with animals deemed unessential to research being euthanized by gassing them with carbon dioxide, through decapitation or by breaking their cervixes. 

A majority of the animals affected were mice and rats, as they make up 90% or more of the animals used in research. While news articles that addressed the issue emphasized the distress of the researchers who were losing “valuable research data,” there has been little or no discussion about the loss of sentient lives as a result.

While mice and rats are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, their care is addressed by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare’s Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, an essential guide for all U.S. laboratories. The guide recommends creating a “disaster plan” that outlines how labs should protect those animals deemed “necessary” or “irreplaceable.” 

As for the other animals? The guide says that “[a]nimals that cannot be relocated or protected from the consequences of the disaster must be humanely euthanized…in a manner that avoids animal distress.” What the guide fails to consider, however, is the inherent worth of each of the living creatures that is not deemed “necessary,” and that killing hundreds of mice at the same time in a single lab is impossible without distressing the living creatures being disposed of so callously. 

Please ask Dr. Patricia Brown, director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, to revisit the issue of mass euthanasia and the disposal of thousands of animals without consideration of their lives. If these animals were truly “unessential” to research, why were they even being bred for life in the lab?

  

Call to Actions:

  1. Please ask that new policies be developed to end mass culling of research animals at NIH and other labs.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.

 

 

Recipients

  • Dr. Patricia Brown, OLAW Director

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Message

Please draft better policies for the care of animals during a pandemic

Dear [Decision Maker],

In March 2020, reports emerged of laboratories "downsizing" their animal populations because of a smaller working staffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands--probably tens of thousands of animals nationwide--were culled, with animals deemed unessential to research being euthanized by gassing them with carbon dioxide, through decapitation or by breaking their cervixes.

A majority of the animals affected are mice and rats because they make up at least 90% of the animals used in research. While news articles that addressed the issue emphasized the distress of the researchers who are losing "valuable research data," little has been said about the loss of sentient lives as a result.

While mice and rats are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, their care is addressed by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, an essential guide for all U.S. laboratories. In the guide, disaster planning provisions state: "If possible the plan should describe how the facility will preserve animals that are necessary for critical research activities or are irreplaceable."

The guide also specifies that "Euthanasia should be carried out in a manner that avoids animal distress." Yet it fails to consider that killing hundreds of mice and rats in a single lab is impossible without distressing the living creatures being disposed of so callously.

There are two questions to consider: how it is possible to conduct mass killings of laboratory animals without considering the ethics of such killings; and if it is justifiable to dispose of thousands of animals so quickly, how is it ethically justifiable to breed these animals for laboratory use?

Please initiate a review of current protocols and procedures used to dispose of animals used for research and testing with these questions in mind.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]