NABR Presents Annual Analysis of Federal Animal Rights FOIA Requests

In its ongoing efforts to keep the animal research community informed, NABR presents its annual analysis of animal rights FOIA requests, "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15."  This is an in-depth report of every federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made during FY15 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by animal rights groups that you won’t find anywhere else.

NABR’s experts have broken these requests down in an easy-to-read format to help you quickly understand the most commonly requested information, frequency of requests by party, and the cost to taxpayers. Of particular note, the number of requests for information about institutions submitted to NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare have increased dramatically.

While this report focuses specifically on the federal FOIA, we also encourage you to review where your state stands with respect to state-level open records laws at NABR's "FOIA in Your State." (log-in required)

As animal rights groups continue to rely on FOIA to gather intelligence about research projects, it is important to understand the impact of such requests.  Download "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15" today by clicking below, and share it with your staff and counsel.

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One of the ‘AETA 4’ Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Joseph Buddenberg has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for a cross-country fur-industry vandalism and mink-liberation campaign.  Buddendberg was previously known as one of the “AETA 4,” after he faced charges in California for alleged illegal activity against researchers in 2008.  That charge, the first under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), was dismissed in 2010 for lack of indictment documentation. At his sentencing last week, Buddenberg also was ordered by the federal court to pay restitution of $398,272. He pleaded guilty in February to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA),  A codefendant, Nicole Kissane, pleaded guilty to the same charge and is due to be sentenced in June. She will share in payment of the restitution ordered.

The two were arrested in July 2014, charged with participating in a concerted campaign against the fur industry in the summer and fall of 2013 that totaled some 40,000 miles in covert travel before it was over. The pair’s months-long crime spree in at least 5 states is outlined in this Los Angeles Times article.  A Newsweek article, Animal Activists Are Shouting out Their Crimes Online, gives more background on Buddenberg and Kissane, as well as other extremists boasting about their actions anonymously.

European Commission Announces Infringement Procedure against Italy’s Restrictive Animal Research Law

The European Commission (EC) opened an infringement procedure against Italy on April 28 over the country’s restrictions on animal research. The action was prompted after research institutes there complained new Italian animal research regulations put them at a disadvantage compared to researchers in other Member States where there are fewer restrictions. The Italian government has two months to respond to the EC complaint. In order to resolve the infringement procedure, Italy must ensure that its laws abide by the requirements set out in the European Directive (2010/63).

You may recall that Italy passed a law in 2014 banning the breeding of cats, dogs and non-human primates for research purposes, or conducting even minimally invasive experiments that do not require sedation or pain-killers. The law also bans work in xenotransplantation and studies of drugs of abuse.  These restrictions pose serious problems for biomedical research in Italy and make it impossible for Italian science to compete with the other European member states.

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) reports the Commission has sent a letter of formal notice to the Italian government, as the first step in the infringement procedure. Earlier this year, EARA’s partner organization Research4Life asked the European Commission on behalf of 37 public and private Italian research institutions for the law to be reassessed. The Commission has informed Italy that its animal research law, legislative decree 26/2014, places “excessive restrictions” on the use of animals for scientific purposes and makes it impossible for Italian science to compete with other European member states.

NABR’s May 3 Webinar Now Available for Online Viewing

NABR’s May 3 webinar, “Meet the New Head of APHIS Animal Care,” is now available online for on-demand viewing.  Did you miss the webinar?  Want to watch it again?  Interested in hosting a lunch-and-learn opportunity for your staff?  All of NABR’s past webinars, including this one, are hosted in an online library in the Members Only section of our website.

Please click here to view “Meet the New Head of APHIS Animal Care.”  You will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

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

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.