Another Appeal Filed Claiming AETA is Unconstitutional

In a 115-page brief filed on May 9, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Rachel Meeropol seeks to convince the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is unconstitutional. A previous CCR case challenging the AETA as a violation of free speech on behalf of five activists (Blum v. Holder) was dismissed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014. A request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision was denied. CCR also argued the AETA was unconstitutional in defense of Kevin Olliff (aka Johnson) and Tyler Lang. The federal court in Chicago rejected that argument, and Olliff and Lang were tried and convicted of AETA conspiracy. They entered non-cooperating guilty plea agreements, which did not waive their right of appeal.

Court House News Service reports Meeropol said it is irrational to punish nonviolent property damage as terrorism, and her clients have a liberty interest in avoiding being labeled terrorists when they have committed no violent crime. "Designating people who release animals — in order to save them from being killed and made into coats — as terrorists is not only preposterous, it is unconstitutional." "This criminalizes all interstate animal rights advocacy," Meeropol wrote, and "reach[es] a vast amount of protected speech and expressive conduct."

Two previous and similar challenges questioning the constitutionality of the AETA have failed.  Please continue to check your email for NABR's member newsletter, the NABR Update, or visit www.NABR.org for updates on this issue.

Newsweek Profiles Convicted Animal Rights Extremists

On March 23, Newsweek published a report about the conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of Kevin Johnson (a.k.a. Olliff) and Tyler Lang, “Mink on the Run: Animal 'Terrorists' Smacked by Federal Prosecutors.”

The article outlines the events leading to the arrest and prosecution of Johnson and Lang, including the release of 2,000 mink and the aftermath of their attack.  Not only were dozens of the released mink killed by roadway traffic, but the victims were forced to close their business and lost their retirement savings.  Unfortunately, the article does not include a statement from victims about the destruction of their business and minimizes the nature of the crimes committed by the pair, their criminal histories, and the evidence presented against them.

You will recall that Judge St. Eve sentenced Lang to three months time already served, six months of house arrest, six months community confinement and one year of supervised release. He is also required to make a $200,000 restitution payment to the farm operators.  "This is a very serious offense that caused a substantial loss to the victim. It wiped out their business and life savings," St. Eve said at Lang's sentencing hearing, reported the Chicago Tribune. "You destroyed their feelings of security and their trust of others, in addition to their business. Johnson received a three-year prison sentence and was ordered to make a $200,000 restitution payment.

To read the Newsweek article, please click here.

Science Coalition Answers ‘Wasteful’ Research Allegations

The Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) sponsored a Congressional exhibit and reception April 13, “’Wasteful’ Research? Looking Beyond the Abstract”.  Its purpose was to  provide researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose work had been targeted in various Congressional “wastebook” publications, an opportunity to put their research into context for Members of Congress and their staff. The unique Congressional exhibition and reception featured nine researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), author of a Congressional wastebook, attended the event. “This has been enlightening, and we want to make sure we are accurate,” the Senator told the Huffington Post. “It is a learning process.”

The event was co-hosted by the Consortium of Social Science Organizations (COSSA), the American Psychological Association (APA) and Elsevier. Additional organizational sponsors included the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), American Educational Research Association, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLGU), the Coalition for Life Sciences (CLS), Population Association of America, and the Society for Research in Child Development.  Additional organizational supporters can be found on last page of reception program.

Nature Addresses Role of China in Primate Research

The April 21 issue of Nature features the in-depth article, Monkey Kingdom, reviewing how and why “China is positioning itself as a world leader in primate research.” Nature reporter David Cyranoski, states, “With China fast becoming a global center for primate research, some scientists fear that it could hasten the atrophy of such science in the West and lead to a near monopoly.”

The piece suggests the Chinese enthusiasm “stands in stark contrast to the climate in the West, where non-human primate research is increasingly stymied by a tangle of regulatory hurdles, financial constraints and bioethical opposition.”  "Monkeying Around," a Nature editorial in the same issue, discusses the political situation, particularly in Europe.  Researchers agree that primate research models have a major role to play in many fields, a point dramatically made during the Ebola crisis, when therapies based on monkey studies were successfully rushed into use.  Ongoing investigations of Zika virus could make the point again.   “Such research is not an all or nothing proposal,” according to Nature, “it is one that requires continuous debate over where the research is warranted.”  Since public opinion against primate research appears to be growing, “too many politicians in Europe are shunning the debate, taking the easy way out and withdrawing support.”

The editorial concludes with encouragement of research collaboration and attention to “abiding by principles that guide the international scientific community – that monkeys should be used only when necessary and in as small a number as possible.”

Mousetronauts in Space: Learning More about Muscles

Last week, several white mice were launched into space and arrived onboard the International Space Station (ISS) with a very important mission.  The crew of twenty female rodents will be involved in physical testing to better understand muscle strength in microgravity.  This important study will help NASA reach new heights by providing them with the insight they need to care for astronauts in space and once they return to earth.  This won’t be the first contribution that mice have made to space travel, either.  A blog post by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a closer look at animals in space.

Many different species have helped pave the way for space exploration.  Monkeys, dogs, mice, and rabbits have helped provide researchers with important information and data on everything from G-forces to microgravity.  Fruit flies were the first species launched into space in the 1940’s in order to learn about high-altitude radiation because of their well-understood genomes.  Mice, as FBR discusses, are excellent models to study because of their size, physiology and genetics, and brief lifespan that can simulate almost a decade in orbit.

Animals in space don’t just teach science about life beyond earth’s atmosphere.  Breakthroughs for people on earth in the fields of bone density loss and the immune system have come from space travel with animals.

To learn more about the impact of animal research and space studies, please take a moment to read FBR’s blog post by clicking here.

Dutch Parliament Passes Motion to Phase Out Non-Human Primate Research

Three weeks ago, the Dutch Parliament passed a motion supported by all parties asking the Government to investigate completely phasing out non-human primate research at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in Rijswijk and other research centers, as reported by the European Animal Research Association (EARA)The BPRC has been subject to consistent protests by animal rights activists, and had opened its doors to Vice News in 2015, resulting in a documentary, Inside the Monkey Lab.

In 2014, non-human primates accounted for less than 0.05% of animals used for scientific purposes in the Netherlands; yet non-human primate research plays an important role in developing medicines, combating infectious diseases and treating severe illnesses. Parliament has acknowledged this, and has asked the Government to ensure such research can still optimally take place, while phasing out non-human primate research as soon as possible under those circumstanc8es.

The current motion passed just months after the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the support of a fund to stimulate the development of animal-free alternative methods; the Dutch government has stated it wants to be a world leader in alternatives by 2025. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will send a letter to Parliament in mid-May listing the members of an independent commission of inquiry and the planned time frame in which the investigation is to take place.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the UK (PETA UK) quickly declared victory online.

Here’s How We Prevent the Next Killer Virus

Dr. Claire Pomeroy, MD, MBA, president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, published an op-ed at CNBC in the wake of Ebola and Zika viruses pointing out the urgent need to better support medical research in order to respond effectively to new infectious diseases.

Dr. Pomeroy concludes, “Instead of shuttering labs and cutting back on promising research, we need to spend the money now and sustained into the future — proactively — to understand more about basic virology, immunology, and epidemiology; to develop vaccine platforms; and to translate those insights into development of new vaccines and therapies.”

To read Dr. Pomeroy's op-ed, please click here.

NCI Announces Blue Ribbon Panel for Cancer Moonshot

The National Cancer Institute (NCI)  announced on April 4 the Blue Ribbon Panel that will lead the Vice President’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The panel consists of scientific experts, cancer researchers, and patient advocates.  It serves as a working group of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), which will consider the Panel’s recommendations and advise the NCI director.

A final report by the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, will be produced and then forwarded to President Barack Obama by December 31, 2016.  Members of the research community and the public can engage in the initiative initially by subscribing to updates on the main website or by emailing the panel at cancerresearch@nih.gov.  In addition, an online forum for submitting scientific ideas and comments to the panel will be available on the site in the coming weeks.

NABR summarized last month the cancer research areas that depend on animal research.  Please take a look at our factsheet,  The Role of Animal Research in the Cancer Moonshot, for more information.

Is Compliance with the Animal Welfare Act Important to Your Institution?

If the answer is yes then you shouldn’t miss NABR's next webinar!  With record attendance and availability short, we suggest you register RIGHT NOW to reserve your spot.

Your friends at NABR have organized a special opportunity that will give you and your institution the chance to "meet" the new Deputy Administrator for Animal Care at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Tuesday, May 3 during NABR’s next webinar.  Bernadette Juarez will be answering your questions live from NABR headquarters in Washington, DC.  As we mentioned, space is going very quickly so please register ASAP.

During this webinar, Ms. Juarez will present her vision for Animal Care, answer your questions, and discuss the future of the USDA division responsible for the regular inspection of your facilities.  If you'd like to submit an anonymous question for Ms. Juarez to answer during the webinar, please send it to info@nabr.org.

All questions must be submitted in advance to info@nabr.org and will remain anonymous. Questions will be reviewed and formatted to prevent duplication.

 

register now

 

 

*This webinar is a complimentary service for NABR member institutions. Unlimited numbers of interested participants from member institutions may register free of charge. Interested participants from non-member institutions must be pre-approved and will be charged an access fee of $279/person. All major credit cards accepted.

“President” Underwood Survives Thanks to Animal Research

The critically acclaimed Netflix original series, House of Cards, is one of the most popular and most talked about shows in recent memory.  The main character, President Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is one of America’s favorite villains.  His never ending arsenal of political schemes, subterfuge, and ruthless ambition has millions of viewers on the edge of their seats.  But did you know that animal research played an indespensible role in saving his life in one of the show's many plot twists?  It did, and the folks at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took some time to examine the role of animal research in President Underwood’s lifesaving liver transplant.

Liver transplants are the second most common organ transplant.  Diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and autoimmune diseases can destroy the liver’s function, making a transplant a patient’s only hope for survival.  After years of careful animal research, immunosuppressive drugs developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s such as Cyclosporin A and Tacrolimus helped patients live longer after the transplant, giving recipients about a 60% chance of living for 15 years post-transplant.  Sadly, at one time patients rarely survived longer than a year after the transplant.  Rodents and other animal models are, right now in labs across the globe, involved in studies to improve these drugs and minimize their side effects.

Studies with rats and pigs are helping lengthen the viability time of donated organs.  They have yielded new and better ways to preserve organs awaiting transport and to preserve them for transplant.  Rats aided in the refinement of a process called supercooling, where organs are perfused with a concentrated sugar solution that prevents the formation of damaging ice crystals.  Pig livers have shown that infusing donor organs with warm blood leads to improved retention of liver function.  Both of these developments can extend storage time up to three days.  This additional time will help those on donor lists get the organs they need anywhere on the globe.

To learn more about these innovations, please click here.

Thanks to the animal research highlighted by FBR in their recent posting, we can hope to see more of President Underwood in future seasons on House of Cards.  Oh, and apologies for the spoiler!

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