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.”

HSUS CEO Resigns Amid Harassment Allegations

On Friday, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) resigned amid numerous claims of inappropriate behavior. Pacelle’s resignation comes after HSUS’s board voted to keep the CEO, prompting seven board members to issue their resignations. Kitty Block has been named interim chief executive.

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

To read POLITICO’s coverage of the claims of harassment at HSUS, please click here.

CNN Features NABR, FBR President in Coverage of FDA Nicotine Research

This morning, Matt Bailey, NABR and Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) president, expressed concerns in an article by CNN covering the recent decision by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to end nicotine studies with primates.

Countering claims by Justin Goodman, Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy of the animal rights organization the White Coat Waste Project (WCW), that such research is a misuse of federal tax dollars, Bailey said, “Research into the effects of nicotine is indeed a public health issue, especially given the rise in popularity of vaping devices among teenagers.” Adding, "My understanding is that the research project in question aimed to determine whether there is or is not a safe level of nicotine absorption by young people." "That's an important question," said Bailey.

Bailey also addressed concerns regarding additional regulatory burden, saying any efforts to augment animal care must be done without impeding the speed of finding breakthroughs. "Additional oversight efforts need to be balanced by efforts to reduce the significant amount of regulatory burden felt daily by research scientists in the US."

"Animals played a role in the development of each of the top 25 most prescribed drugs in America," Bailey said. Adding that our pets, farm animals and wildlife also benefit from medical treatments developed in part from animal research, he noted, "Farm animals and wildlife are routinely vaccinated against any number of diseases, but those vaccines wouldn't be available without animal research. So if you love animals, you really should support animal research."

"Undoubtedly, some will argue that this recent action by the FDA is a reason to end research with animal models. But given the inextricable role humane and responsible animal research plays in the health of the overall population, and the health of the animals about which we care so deeply, that is a very dangerous proposition," he said.

Please click here to read Bailey’s interview by CNN

USDA-ACIS Database Lawsuit Dismissed

Last year, on February 3, 2017, in response to a privacy lawsuit about the Horse Protection Act (HPA), the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) removed from its website the Animal Care Information System (ACIS) database. The ACIS database consisted of documents concerning inspection and licensing of animal research facilities.

A coalition of animal rights groups and activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Delcianna Winders, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Born Free USA, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) filed a lawsuit alleging the removal of ACIS information violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As the lawsuit progressed, APHIS continued to review, update, and repost the documents, completing an official review and republishing many of the documents on its website in September 2017. APHIS then filed a motion to dismiss PETA’s lawsuit on various grounds.

On January 18, 2018, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper dismissed the case, finding PETA’s claims were moot, considering most of the documents had by this time been reposted by APHIS. Regarding the documents that were not reposted, the judge dismissed without prejudice PETA’s complaint, finding those documents could be obtained with a normal FOIA request by PETA, which would allow APHIS to decide whether the documents should be redacted or withheld.

Matthew R. Bailey, FBR President, said exactly that when he spoke to the media last year: “I would certainly agree that protection of personal information is of utmost importance, given the rich history of targeting individuals involved in animal research.” Read the 12-page opinion dismissal here.

European SHAC Animal Rights Extremists Sentenced

Two members of the European-based animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), were sentenced last week for terrorism acts.

The extremists were directly involved in a series of attacks against employees connected to the Cambridge, UK-based Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). These attacks included threatening HLS  employees and destroying their vehicles by setting fire bombs. Seven other SHAC members were jailed for similar crimes in 2009, and collectively they will serve a 50-year sentence.

The two defendants in this case, Natasha Simpkins and Sven Van Hasselt, were sentenced to two years and five years, respectively.

Members of SHAC USA were also convicted in 2006 for similar crimes against employees of a HLS lab in New Jersey. Among those was Kevin Kjonaas, who served six years for violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), precursor to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Kjonaas is now director of operations at the animal rights group the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP).

Over 40 Scientific, Medical Organizations Write to Congress Supporting VA’s Canine Research

The amount of opposition to proposals by Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and freshman Brian Mast (R-FL) to cease funding at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to rise. Today, over 40 organizations in science and medicine wrote to Congress in a letter asking them not to end funding for critical research programs for our nation's veterans.

The letter sent to Appropriations Committee Chairmen Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) discusses the importance of dogs to scientific progress for humans and animals and encourages Congress not to pass further impediments on research for veterans at the VA. It echoes sentiments already expressed by veteran, military, veterinary, scientific, and medical organizations like the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), American Brain Coalition (ABC), American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)The American Legion, American Physiological Society (APS), American Psychological Association (APA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN), Friends of VA (FOVA), Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), National Defense Committee, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Square Deal for Veterans, and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD even weighed-in about the issue back in September in a USA Today op-ed.

Currently Congress is considering H.R. 3197 (the PUPPERS Act) and a similar amendment to the House-passed homeland security “minibus,” which seek to end funding for VA studies involving canines.

To read the organizational letter to Congress, please click here.

AETA Upheld in Appellate Case of Animal Rights Activist Who Released Minks

Wednesday marked the first time a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), which was signed into law in 2006. In a 23-page opinion, the Seventh Circuit found the AETA constitutional, ruling against the claims of animal rights activist Kevin Johnson who trespassed with Tyler Lang onto the property of an Illinois farm in 2013 and set 2,000 minks and foxes loose, causing up to $200,000 of physical damage in addition to the cost of the animals and profits.

The AETA is a critical tool for law enforcement as it is the only federal law specifically designed to protect individuals involved in research from threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment and intimidation that place them in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. Since its enactment in 2006, the frequency and severity of illegal actions in the U.S. has decreased significantly.

This appellate case arose after Johnson entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to 36 months in prison, but turned to the courts to challenge the AETA arguing that he was being unfairly targeted as an animal rights activist. His challenge was overruled by District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve in 2015 and the Seventh Circuit came to the same conclusion earlier this week.

The Seventh Circuit Court, in a decision authored by Judge Anne Claire Williams, rejected Johnson’s claim of unfair prosecution stating that “While it may be true that the people most often prosecuted under AETA are animal rights activists, this does not mean the law is vague and is being enforced in a discriminatory manner. Instead, it may simply mean that animal rights activists are the persons who are most often violating the law.”

The Court was also unconvinced by Johnson’s claims that the use of the term “terrorism” in the title of the law was “utterly unreasonable” finding that “Given the serious harms the statute was trying to address, including arson, bombing, and death threats, it was in no way arbitrary or unreasonable for Congress to include the word ‘terrorism’ in the non-codified title of AETA.” In addition, the opinion noted that “It is beyond question that Defendants' conduct of releasing 2,000 minks, destroying their breeding cards, spraying a caustic substance on farm equipment and spray painting ‘Liberation is Love’ on the barn of the mink farm ‘falls squarely in the core of what is prohibited by’ AETA.”

This decision is the latest in a string of legal challenges to the AETA that have been rejected by the Federal Appeals Courts. To read the full story, click here. For more information about NABR’s role in the passage of the AETA and the protections it provides to the biomedical research community, click here.

BREAKING: VA Secretary Pens Op-Ed in USA Today Supporting VA’s Dog Research Program

Today, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) David Shulkin joined the American Physiological Society (APS) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), along with Friends of VA (FOVA), the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and the American Legion, in his defense of canine research at the VA.

In opposition to language added to the homeland security “minibus” by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) and passed by the House last month, which would target for elimination the VA's dog research program, Shulkin wrote a powerful column published this morning in USA Today. The amendment language is similar to H.R. 3197 which is awaiting consideration on Capitol Hill.

"Science and research are more critical than ever in providing breakthroughs for many unique conditions affecting our veterans. America needs VA’s innovative research programs, and veterans and their families have earned them. We owe it to these patriots to do all we can to develop medical advancements that could help restore some of what they have sacrificed in service to our nation," wrote Secretary Shulkin.

Shulkin detailed some of the lifesaving and life-improving discoveries made possible by the VA's canine research program, accomplishments that have included the recent FDA approval of an artificial pancreas and the implantable cardiac pacemaker. He also summarized a current study that could help paralyzed veterans and others with spinal cord injuries ward off potentially lethal lung infections.

To read the Shulkin’s letter in USA Today, please click here.

AVMA, APS, American Legion Support Animal Research, Oppose Ending VA Dog Studies

Three additional national organizations have written to Congress to express their concerns with efforts that would effectively eliminate important research with dogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Physiological Society (APS), and the American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ organization with 2.3 million members, now join the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Friends of VA (FOVA) in announcing their opposition.

The first of those efforts, H.R. 3197, introduced in July by Representatives Dave Brat (R-VA) and Dina Titus (D-NV), could have 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. Rep. Brat also introduced similar language in an amendment to the homeland security “minibus” which was passed by the full House last month.

“Dogs are used in vital research that will help improve the lives of our veterans by finding treatments for diseases and conditions affecting the veteran community, including studies on cardiology, diabetes and spinal cord injuries,” writes the AVMA. “The American Legion recognizes the irreplaceable value this research provides for our veterans and appreciate the sacrifice these animals make in the name of science that humans and service animals, as well as duty K-9s, benefit greatly from,” echos the American Legion.

The letter sent by AVMA can be seen by clicking here. APS' letter is available here. The American Legion’s letter is viewable here.

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.

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