USDA Calls for Public Comments on Regulatory Reform

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments from the public about the regulatory burden they have experienced and ideas for regulatory reform at the department. Specifically, USDA is looking for “public ideas on regulations, guidance documents, or any other policy documents that are in need of reform, for example ideas to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those items.”

Public comments will be accepted in four batches over a one-year period; the deadline for the first batch is September 15. The second batch of comments is due on November 14. The third and fourth batches are due on February 12, 2018 and July 17, 2018, respectively. NABR is planning to submit comments during the November batch and we encourage your institution to submit comments as well.

The questions below have been excerpted in full from the USDA’s notice in the Federal Registrar:

  1. Are there any regulations that should be repealed, replaced, or modified?
  2. For each regulation identified in question number 1, please identify whether the regulation:
    1. Results in the elimination of jobs, or inhibits job creation;
    2. Is outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
    3. Imposes costs that exceed benefits;
    4. Creates a serious inconsistency or otherwise interferes with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
    5. Is inconsistent with the requirements or regulations of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), which requires that agencies maximize the quality, objectivity, and integrity of the information (including statistical information) they disseminate; or
    6. Derives from or implements Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.
  3. Are there any existing USDA requirements that duplicate or conflict with requirements of another Federal agency? Can the requirement be modified to eliminate the conflict?
  4. What are the estimated total compliance costs of the USDA regulations to which you or your organization must comply? This should include the costs of complying with information collections, recordkeeping, and other requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Comments may be submitted electronically, by mail, hand delivery, or courier. The USDA has requested that submitters please specify “Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives” in the comment for submission. To read the full notice in the Federal Register and to submit comments, please click here.

American Psychological Association Reaffirms Support for Animal Research

The American Psychological Association (APA) released a statement reaffirming “its long-standing support for ethically sound and scientifically valid research with nonhuman animals and the scientists who conduct it,” noting that animal research has “significantly improved the health and well-being of both human and nonhuman animals.” The statement recognizes the importance of animal research in the development and discovery of cures for diseases like tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease, polio, muscular dystrophy, and high blood pressure. The APA is comprised of nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students in the field of psychology.

To read APA’s full press release, click here.

Paralyzed Veterans of America Explains the Importance of Dog Studies at the VA

Sherman Gillums Jr., Executive Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) published an op-ed in The Hill yesterday in strong opposition to legislation that would hinder medical advancements for disabled veterans. “For a veteran facing a lifetime of paralysis after suffering a spinal cord injury, hope is often the last thing to die. Yet, the recently introduced House bill, H.R. 3197, threatens to crush what little hope to which I, and the approximately 60,000 veterans living with spinal cord injury, cling. The act proposes to reduce investment in medical research, and the reason is as simple as it is controversial: animal research.”

Introduced in July by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), H.R.3197 would effectively eliminate important research with dogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. An amendment to the homeland security minibus serving the same purpose was passed by the full House last month. This legislation has serious implications for veterans because research with dogs has led to life-saving and life-improving treatments for veterans suffering from spinal cord injuries, heart conditions, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and other diseases experienced through military service.

“The VA has a responsibility to consistently find new and better ways of treat America’s heroes. Animal research helps the department do that. The program has helped save and improve countless lives, and it will continue to do so—unless ideology, and in some cases extremism on the issue of animal rights, succeed in forcing the public's attention away from VA waiting rooms, inpatient wards, and rehabilitation gyms across the country. This is where the price of wars across several eras can be seen almost daily, as well as where medicine and science find their ripest opportunities.”

For more information about the importance of dogs in research, please click here.

To read the letter, click here.

USDA FOIA Logs Posted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published on its website a list of all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted to the department in 2017. NABR is analyzing the documents and will report any findings of interest to the biomedical research community.

FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits the public to request records owned by federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To review NABR’s analysis of FY 2016 FOIA requests from animal rights groups please click here (log-in required).

Recording of “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition” Now Available for Online Viewing

If you were unable to attend NABR’s exclusive July 18 webinar or just want to see it again, the recording is now available online for on-demand viewing.

Please click here to view “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition.” You will need your NABR Members Only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

You can find all of NABR’s past webinars, including this one, in an online library in the Members Only section of our website.

If you have problems logging in or have any questions about the webinar, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

NABR President Rebuts PETA Letter to The Hill

As you’ll recall, last week shortly after National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins said in an interview that “Animals are still crucial to our understanding of how biology works,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) fired back with a letter to The Hill calling for a systematic review of animal studies at the NIH. This letter, “A need to rethink spending on animal-based research at NIH,” is part of PETA’s call to defund the NIH because of its use of animal models in lifesaving and live-improving research.

Today, NABR’s President Matt Bailey penned a response letter to The Hill discussing not only the benefits of animal research in medical discovery from conditions like HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, but covering the immense economic impact of taxpayer funded studies. The United States’ investment in research, specifically with the NIH, supports 350,000 jobs and produced $60 billion in new economic activity in 2015.

Take a moment to read Bailey’s letter and share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media and encourage others to do the same.

NIH Director’s Interview Runs Counter to PETA’s Anti-Animal Research Letter in The Hill

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), explained the importance of animal models in research during an interview with the Washington Examiner last week. The interview focused on proposed cuts to the NIH in President Donald Trump’s budget, as well as information regarding research projects by the NIH.

The reporter stated, “PETA came out this year supporting budget cuts to the NIH, saying that cutting testing on animals would achieve significant savings. What can you tell us about where animal testing stands?” Dr. Collins emphasized the importance of using animals in an ethical and responsible manner, and affirmed that animal studies are a necessary step toward discovering new therapies and cures for diseases: “Animals are still crucial to our understanding of how biology works. Anybody who has looked at the kind of oversight that applies to that I think will be impressed by how much attention goes toward any protocol that we fund that is going to involve animals for research. It has to have veterinarians and members of the public looking constantly at the conditions under which the animals are cared for and how we do everything possible to avoid the creation of unnecessary pain… Animals are still crucial to our understanding of how biology works.”

Click here to watch (or read) the full Washington Examiner interview with Dr. Collins.

Shortly after the interview was published, Emily Trunnell, who is employed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published a letter-to-the-editor in The Hill titled, “A need to rethink spending on animal-based research at NIH,” which argued animal studies do not provide results that are useful for humans and that failure rates for news drugs is greater than 95%. Trunnell called for alternative technologies to be used in place of animals, and requested a systematic review by the NIH for all animal experiments. Meanwhile Appropriations committees in Congress are voting to increase the NIH budget.

Legal Scholars Taking a Look at Chimps’ Personhood

The recent court cases brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) have started to garner attention, not only from animal activists and the research sector, but from the general public as well.  Recently, Matthew Goldberg, a Boston-area writer who has been featured in the Federalist and New Boston Post, wrote a thought-provoking opinion piece on the subject.

In his article, Goldberg discussed the difference between legal rights and duties, which was a major focus  of the court in its most recent decision. The court explained that NhRP’s personhood argument is specious—chimps cannot have the legal right to exist without potential use as research subjects precisely because they also cannot, for example, pay a parking ticket or serve a prison sentence for mauling another chimp (or human for that matter).

Goldberg addressed another argument by NhRP, that primate intelligence warrants legal personhood explaining the potential for the use of that precedent to deny rights to humans with limited intelligence or cognitive impairment.

The article seems to conflate rights—to which animals are entitled, as, for example, undergirds laws against animal cruelty—with full personhood, to which animals are not entitled because they are not capable of fulfilling the attendant legal duties.

Goldberg asked thoughtful questions in this piece, leaving room for more dialogue on the subject and possibly signifying increased public attention to and interest in personhood arguments (as will play out again in NhRP’s appeal).

Spending Bills Approved and Advanced on Capitol Hill

Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $20.5 billion agriculture spending bill. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act will fund programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for FY2018. The bill includes a $4.8 billion increase to the amount proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, but $7.9 billion less than the previous year’s funding level. Of interest to the animal research community is the allocation of $953.2 million for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency that regulates and inspects animal research laboratories. This is $143.2 million above Trump’s budget request for APHIS and $7 million above the funding level for FY2017. The bill was approved by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Also last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $156 billion Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for FY 2018. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Bill contains $21.6 billion more than the amount proposed by Trump and $34.7 billion more than the funding level for FY2018. The spending bill contains $35.2 billion for the NIH ($8.6 billion increase to the Trump’s budget proposal and $1.1 billion increase to FY 2017 allocation) and was approved by the subcommittee on July 13. The bill contains language that directs the NIH to develop a plan to speed up the process of transferring retired research chimpanzees to retirement sanctuaries.

Please stay tuned for more important updates from NABR during the Appropriations process.

NABR Releases FY2016 FOIA Analysis – Government Costs Increase

NABR has prepared a review of federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted by animal rights organizations in Fiscal Year 2016. FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits members of the public to submit requests for records in the possession of federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In FY 2016, both USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the NIH received a significant number of requests from animal rights activists. As outlined in further detail in NABR’s FY2016 FOIA Analysis (log-in required), these agencies received 12% more requests from animal rights groups than the previous year, and the cost for the government to respond to the requests increased by 20%.

NABR believes animal rights activists will continue to submit broad requests for large amounts of data about research facilities in FY 2017 in part because of the USDA’s decision on February 3 to temporarily remove the Animal Care Inspection Service (ACIS) database. NABR will continue to monitor FOIA requests submitted to federal agencies and, when possible, alert members if they are named in the requests. Research facilities should carefully review all information submitted to federal agencies. To read the full FY2016 FOIA Analysis, please click here (log-in required).

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