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).

NIH Official Educates PETA About the Applicability of Animal Research

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), NABR has obtained a response from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to PETA regarding their recent letter which alleges the use of animals in federally-funded research is “misleading.”

PETA’s letter, dated April 5, expressed concern about applicability of animal research to humans and stated that “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports a 92 percent failure rate of clinical trials for new pharmaceutical drugs following preclinical success in animals.” The letter also referenced a recent PETA report that claims to highlight ways to reduce the federal budget by slashing animal research funding.

In the NIH’s response to PETA, Michael Lauer, M.D., Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the NIH, declared the importance of research with animals and explained that numerous medical advancements have resulted from research with animals including vaccines, blood transfusions, treatments for breast cancer and epilepsy, in vitro fertilization, organ transplants, and more.

Lauer specifically stated that “research using animal models continues to make significant contributions to human and animal health. Although research based on animal models needs to improve and has limitations, it is not justification for eliminating powerful tools that have arguably saved millions of Americans…In our view there is no consensus that animal models should be eliminated—rather, we want to build on prior successes and learn from prior failures.”

NIH’s response to PETA also described the strict federal and institutional regulations in place to ensure that animals are used only when necessary and that the well-being of animals is maximized.

Click here to read PETA’s letter and report. Click here to read NIH’s response.

Media Outlet Takes Animal Rights Group to Task

“Just who is the group protesting live animal training in Fargo,” asked KVLY in Fargo, North Dakota on April 6, 2017. In a report televised by the news outlet, Valley News questioned the animal rights group protesting lifesaving trauma training at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has sought to end such training and education at NDSU because it involved the use of animals. PCRM even erected a billboard questioning NDSU’s use of pigs for these programs just last year. KVLY asked the question, “who is the PCRM,” and investigated whether PCRM practices “responsible medicine.” According to the news report, PCRM promoted the use of the Heimlich maneuver as a way to save drowning victims, something the American Heart Association notes as “unnecessary and potentially dangerous.”

To watch the news coverage mentioned above, click here and feel free to share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.

“We Wanted Them to Live in Fear”: Animal Rights Activist Admits to Bombing

Rodney Coronado, once an activist for the Animal Liberation Front, last week admitted to the Lansing State Journal that he was behind the 1992 bombing of the office of a Michigan State University animal science professor. Richard Aulerich, who was specifically targeted, was studying environmental impacts on mink reproduction. Coronado targeted Aulerich’s laboratory because he thought the study was being supported by the fur industry. “I won’t sugar coat it,” he said to the State Journal. “We were about psychological warfare. We wanted researchers like Aulerich never to know when they came to work and opened their office door whether there had been an attack. We wanted them to live in fear.”

According to the article, Coronado fled after the attack and was on the run for over a year. Police eventually caught up with him and he agreed to plead guilty to aiding and abetting arson in exchange for having several other charges dropped. He spent over four years in prison.

Coronado’s bomb destroyed decades of research and caused over $1 million in damages.

This bombing happened fourteen years before enactment of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) in 2006. To read recent news coverage about Coronado and the Michigan State bombing, please click here.

Another Extremist Reaches Plea Deal in AETA Case

Last week Nicole Kissane pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). She joins codefendant Joseph Buddenberg who pleaded guilty to the same charge last year in connection to a campaign of animal extremism against the fur industry.

Kissane and Buddenberg were arrested in July 2014 for their participation in a cross-country campaign of vandalism against the fur industry which included the release of mink from farms. Their months-long crime spree covered 40,000 miles of travel over five states. 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. Buddenberg once faced charges in California for alleged illegal activity against researchers in 2008 but they were dismissed in 2010.

According to news coverage by ABC News, it is expected that prosecutors will recommend an 18-month sentence. She has agreed to pay more than $420,000 in restitution. Buddenberg was sentenced in May to two years in federal prison and must pay $398,272 in restitution. For more news coverage of Kissane’s plea, please see the San Diego Union-Tribune story by clicking here.

The AETA has been found constitutional by the courts numerous times and has been influential in deterring campaigns of violence against biomedical researchers, their families, and their institutions.

BIO CEO Pens Op-Ed Lauding the Results of Translational Animal Research

Jim Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and board member of the National Audubon Society, has written an enlightening submission to the Capitol Hill news site, The Hill, which highlights the connections humans have with animals.  It is already known that fostering relationships with animals has been scientifically shown to be beneficial for one’s mental health. Now, as Greenwood explains, the relationship goes even deeper.

Animal research has been shown to greatly improve the lives of both humans and animals.  To put this fact in perspective, sixty percent of all human diseases can be spread by animals, and livestock are particularly at risk.  To mediate this problem, scientists have carefully modified the genomes of livestock to make them less susceptible to spreading disease.  One example provided by Greenwood are chickens.  These ubiquitous birds have been modified to prevent the transmission of bird flu to other chickens, which then decreases the threat of a bird flu epidemic in humans.  In addition, other researchers have found ways to combat other deadly diseases, like Ebola and the Zika virus, by using animal models such as cows and mosquitos.

Greenwood goes on to note that animal studies are “key to discovering, developing and manufacturing new treatments for human diseases. Animal models of human diseases have helped scientists understand how and why a particular disease develops and what can be done to halt or reverse the process.”

Research performed with animals has saved the lives of many people and with continued use of animal research, scientists can save the lives of millions more. As Greenwood states, “Today, many people with once-fatal diseases are alive and healthy thanks to scientific breakthroughs made possible by studying animals. Tomorrow, thanks to ongoing advances in animal biotechnology, we can envision an even more hopeful and humane future for our planet, its people and our animal friends.”

To read Greenwood’s op-ed, please click here.

Are Primates Still Important for Medical Progress? The Answer: Yes

Opponents to animal research always ask, “Is research with primates still needed?”  According to Dr. Andrew Jackson of Britain’s Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience in a recent BBC Science & Environment article, primates are still vital for medical research, especially for studies with the brain.

Dr. Jackson has been recently researching the relationship between motion and the brain with rhesus macaque monkeys and a specially designed videogame. The monkeys play the game and when they win, they receive fruit as a reward. All the while, Dr. Jackson studies the monitors to see how neurons react to create the primates’ movement.  He explains that this research could help find ways to restore mobility to people who have suffering from paralysis.  Why a monkey? The research is performed with monkeys, rather than mice because the physiology of a monkey’s brain is much more similar to that of a human.  In addition, mice do not manipulate objects with their front paws like monkeys and people do with their hands.

In the article, an international animal rights group claims that primate research is unnecessary because of the existence of brain neural imaging and computer models, whose data is based of off previous animal studies. As the article notes, soon after publishing arguments in opposition to Dr. Jackson’s study, over six hundred scientists who are actively involved in animal research signed an open letter rejecting those claims.
Those scientists explain that nonhuman primates are very important for medical development and great lengths are taken to ensure their safety and comfort.  Labs come with elaborate enclosures, social groups, and more secluded areas to allow primates to have some time to themselves.  Dr. Jackson concurs that the wellbeing of the animals is very important for the experiments noting that stressed or uncomfortable animals can skew data and make it impossible to perform research.

To read the article, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of primates in research, please see the resources located on NABR’s website.

AETA Appeal Reportedly ‘Flounders’ in 7th Circuit

Based on the “critical” questions and statements of a three-judge panel at a September 21 hearing, Court House News reported the appeal of Kevin Johnson’s conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) “flounders.”  Johnson received a three-year prison sentence for attacking a mink farm near Chicago in 2013 (U.S. v. Johnson).  At the hearing, Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CRR) argued on appeal that such prosecution was unlawful because the AETA was unconstitutional. This argument against the AETA has been made repeatedly by animal rights attorneys. Four courts, including  two federal Courts of Appeal, have found the law constitutional.   The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to review the issues in Blum v. Holder.

U.S. Circuit Judge Ann Williams noted she had "a big problem" with the argument. "The definition of animal enterprise is very clear under the statute, and traveling interstate to free 2,000 minks is the kind of crime this statute envisions," Williams added.  After Meeropol claimed the statute was overbroad and might cover throwing a stone through a Whole Foods window or the financial losses allegedly caused by the film “Blackfish”, Judge Williams remained unconvinced.  "The statute specifically says that it doesn't cover expressive activity protected by the First Amendment or lawful economic disruption," the judge said. The other two federal district court judges on the panel also made comments critical of the appeal. When Meeropol attempted to reiterate her arguments, Court House News said the court “seemed too disinterested to question her further and certainly disinclined to invalidate the statute.”

Florida Judge Rules Primate Breeding Facility Approvals Did Not Violate Sunshine Law

A Hendry County judge has ruled against an animal rights group suing over the county's handling of monkey breeding farms. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of three county residents, filed a lawsuit alleging county officials violated the Florida Sunshine Law by permitting two primate breeding companies to build or expand facilities in its jurisdiction.

Judge James Sloan ruled the county did not violate state open records laws when it met with officials representing the companies. The judge said Sunshine Laws only apply to boards and commissions, not the staff that work for those elected bodies.  “We are pleased with Judge Sloan’s ruling upholding our constant assertions that Hendry County did not violate Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law. Our legal team is to be commended, especially County Attorney Mark Lapp,” says Charles Chapman, County Administrator. “Hendry County continues to stand by the rights provided to our property owners contained within the language of our comprehensive plan and land development code.”

The case has attracted local media attention.  One report said about 30 spectators, including independent journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, attended the first day of the bench trail.

Are Research Rats, Mice, and Birds Protected Species?

It is often said by the animal rights community that research animals like rodents, birds, and fish are not protected by federal laws.  Yesterday, the blog Speaking of Research addressed this confusion and outlined the protections granted to these animals in research and testing despite the claims of anti-research activists.

Although not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), rodents, birds and fish bred for research are federally protected.   Under the Health Research Extension Act (HREA), statutory authority is granted to the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy).  Institutions receiving federal funds must comply with PHS Policy which contains extensive information on procedures and the care of live vertebrate animals.  This policy, overseen by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), has the authority to suspend projects and even cease funding if violations of PHS Policy are found.  Finally, at the institutional level, private accreditations and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) provides oversight and public transparency for the research.

To read Speaking of Research’s interesting coverage of this myth, please click here.

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