Court Ruling on PETA ‘Monkey Selfie’ Case

As CNN said, “Monkey ©. Monkey don't.” On Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that monkeys can’t own copyrights or bring copyright infringement suits. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought the case forward on behalf of Naruto, the Indonesian macaque who became a sensation when he snapped a selfie with the unattended camera of wildlife photographer David J. Slater.

The level of criticism the court leveled against PETA was surprising. According to the court, PETA “failed” as a friend of Naruto noting, “Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that ‘animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way,’ PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals.”

Slater, who reached a settlement with PETA in October to donate 25% of earnings from his book to charities “that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia,” told the Washington Post he was “thoroughly delighted” with the outcome of the case and that attorneys’ fees were granted.

Time, USA Today, and NPR also covered the ruling.

Should Chimps Have Same Legal Rights as People? NYU Professor Thinks So.

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) submitted an amicus brief in the State of New York Court of Appeals on February 23 arguing that two chimpanzees, Kiko and Tommy, should be granted habeas corpus, or legal personhood. The brief was signed by 16 people including New York University (NYU) Professor Jeff Sebo. Sebo told the Washington Square News, NYU’s independent student newspaper, “I think that personhood should be based on features such as conscious experience which are widely shared on the phylogenetic tree, which many non-human animals have, independently of how intelligent they happen to be or how similar to humans they happen to be.” NABR Update readers will recall, NhRP lost a similar lawsuit in February of last year and July of 2015. Another New York case was dismissed in 2014. According to her quote in the student newspaper, Vice President at The Primate Sanctuary, Carmen Presti, is not concerned, saying that NhRP has, “lost every case in court, and it’s just a waste of my time and taxpayers’ money.” Presti added, “It’s beating a dead horse. They keep trying different angles, and they just keep losing.” To read the news coverage of this amicus brief, please click here.

NhRP submitted last week a Motion for Articulation with the Connecticut Appellate Court regarding their case for personhood for three Connecticut elephants. “Through our Motion, we are asking the Superior Court to adequately explain its reasoning with reference to specific Connecticut judicial precedent, rules, or statutes,” wrote NhRP in their blog. The Motion filed last week follows their March 16, 2018 Notice of Appeal when a judge ruled to deny the elephants personhood.

House Agriculture Committee Releases 2018 Farm Bill

Yesterday the House Agriculture Committee released their text of the 2018 Farm Bill. Why is this important to the research community? The Farm Bill effects virtually all actions taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the agency’s oversight of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This bill is a perennial target for use as a vehicle to enact further restrictions on animal research.

The Senate has yet to release its version of the bill. The question of whether a House version would be introduced was in doubt due to controversy over nutrition and food stamps issues.

Please visit the House Agriculture Committee’s web page on the Farm Bill to read the bill, fact sheets, and other resources.

NIH Director Testifies at FY19 Budget Hearing

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on Wednesday to discuss the FY 2019 budget.

Dr. Collins received nearly universal, bipartisan support for the work that NIH has done over the years. Many of the questions predominating the hearing revolved around the current opioid crisis and what work was being done to treat and prevent addiction. During one exchange with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Dr. Collins discussed how technology is rapidly changing the research arena, using a “kidney on a chip” as an example.

The consensus of the hearing was that, in strained financial times, the money spent on NIH was a worthwhile investment given the current opioid crisis and continued need for biomedical research. Dr. Collins noted that nearly 100% of the drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2010 and 2016 benefited in some way by NIH’s involvement.

Please click here if you’d like the view the hearing.

Trump Picks HIV/AIDS Researcher as New CDC Director

President Donald Trump has named Robert Redfield as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). His appointment comes after former Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned following a POLITICO investigation revealing she had traded tobacco, food, and drug stocks while leading the agency.

Redfield, a clinical scientist and former Army doctor, co-founded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also previously served on President George W. Bush’s HIV/AIDS advisory panel and in various advisory roles at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The decision has been criticized because of Redfield’s earlier research and views, controversies that POLITICO highlights in coverage of his appointment. He has, however, received the support of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who said in a statement, “Although I seldom agree with the Trump administration, I am in complete agreement that Dr. Bob Redfield is the best choice to lead the CDC."

President Signs Omnibus Bill

Earlier today, President Donald Trump signed the FY18 omnibus bill to keep the federal government open until September 30. President Trump had previously announced via Twitter earlier in the morning that he was considering vetoing the bill because of the border wall and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issues.

There were several animal provisions in the bill. The omnibus will include $30,810,000 (a $2 million increase from FY17) for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including continuing inspections of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) locations conducting research with farm animals.

The omnibus also addresses the USDA database issue by noting, “On February 3, 2017, USDA restricted the public's access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System, saying it needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the information on its website. USDA is now posting heavily redacted inspection reports that make it difficult in certain cases for the public to understand the subject of the inspection, assess USDA's subsequent actions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement. USDA's actions to date do not meet the requirements in H. Rpt. 115-232 that the online searchable database should allow analysis and comparison of data and include all inspection reports, annual reports, and other documents related to enforcement of animal welfare laws. USDA is directed to comply with these requirements and is reminded that as part of its oversight responsibilities, Congress has the right to make any inquiry it wishes into litigation in which USDA is involved. USDA is directed to respond to any such inquiries fully.”

Level funding of almost $21.5 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Computational Toxicology program was also included in the bill to develop effective alternatives, as required by the 2016 reauthorization of TSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act. Rejecting a $212 million cut proposed by the President, the bill also increases funding of the National Institute (NIH) National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS) by over $36 million.

The omnibus didn’t stop there. Aside from encouraging the expedited transfer of NIH’s retired chimpanzees and expansion of the federal sanctuary system, it also contained a prohibition on funding for Class B licenses by the USDA, which has been included several times before. It also prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from using funding for “research using canines unless: the scientific objectives of the study can only be met by research with canines; the study has been directly approved by the Secretary; and the study is consistent with the revised Department of Veterans Affairs canine research policy document released on December 18, 2017.” Also, it requires the VA Secretary to submit to both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees a “detailed report outlining under what circumstances canine research may be needed if there are no other alternatives, how often it was used during that time period, and what protocols are in place to determine both the safety and efficacy of the research.”

To read the full 2,232 page FY18 omnibus, please click here.

HSUS Admonished by Illinois Legislature

Late last week, a resolution was introduced by State Representative Daniel Burke (D) admonishing the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The resolution encourages residents of Illinois to support local humane societies given the “disrespectful work culture” and “lack of commitment to supporting animals.” It explained only 1% of donations to HSUS in 2016 funded efforts or programs to provide care for animals.

HSUS, one of the largest animal rights organizations in the world, has historically been a staunch opponent of animal research and has a section of its website devoted to the “troubling issue of animal research.”

Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriations Announces Retirement

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced last week that he will retire from the U.S. Senate on April 1 for health reasons.

Elected in 1978, Cochran is chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations. His retirement will lead to two Senate races in Mississippi this fall, as his colleague Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is also up for reelection. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a temporary replacement for Cochran until a special election in Nov.

As for his Chairmanship, the position will be filled by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) who told The New York Times “It would be a great honor, but I’m not there yet,”  adding, “I would be interested at the proper time.”

On-Demand Viewing Now Available for Last Week’s NABR Webinar

Last week’s NABR webinar, “The 2017 USDA Inspection Data: Celebrating a New Milestone in Compliance?” is now available online for on-demand viewing by NABR members with credentials for the Members Only section.

Please click here to view “The 2017 USDA Inspection Data: Celebrating a New Milestone in Compliance?” Again, you will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

If you have problems logging-in, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

NBC News Spotlights Canine Cancer Research

In case you missed it, a segment on Saturday's NBC Nightly News broadcast with Lester Holt was dedicated to exploring some promising cancer research involving dogs.

As explained by NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres, 20 major medical centers are conducting clinical trials for drugs that could potentially cure cancer in dogs. "Humans and dogs are 95% identical genetically—and the diseases that affect humans, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma, are almost identical."

Click here to learn why so many researchers are turning to man's best friend for new cancer treatments that could benefit humans and companion animals alike. The segment perfectly exemplifies the Foundation for Biomedical Research's (FBR) outreach campaign: "Love Animals? Support Animal Research."

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