Animal rights activists want MIT fined over the death of a lab rabbit that was accidentally thrown in a machine that washes cages, The Boston Herald reports:
Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, which monitors animal research, wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hit MIT with a $10,000 penalty — the maximum under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
“Obviously, killing any animal is serious,” SAEN executive director Michael Budkie said. “But being so negligent as to leave an animal in a cage that’s sent through a cage-washer — which means the animal is really boiled alive — that is deserving of a very serious penalty. … The animal must have suffered horribly.”
On Jan. 16, an 11-year animal husbandry technician at MIT’s Division of Comparative Medicine failed to remove a rabbit from a cage before placing the cage in a washer, according to a
Feb. 13 MIT letter to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. The animal later was discovered dead in the bottom of the cage.
After DCM management determined the incident involved “gross negligence and was inexcusable,” the technician resigned Jan. 31.
The February letter, written by MIT’s vice president for research and sent to the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, said following the rabbit incident, new protocols were put in place:
“In our view, the time has come to end biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees.”
This would not be news if it were coming from, say, PETA. But the source is what made me sit up and take notice: The editors of Scientific American, in an editorial just out here.
The editors write:
Public opposition is on the rise. In April a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, to prohibit invasive research on great apes, including chimps. And when the NIH announced its plans for bringing the Alamogordo chimps out of retirement, objections from the Humane Society, primatologist Jane Goodall and others prompted the agency to put the plans on hold until the Institute of Medicine (IOM) completes a study of whether chimps are truly necessary for biomedical and behavioral research. The IOM project itself has been criticized: the NIH instructed it to omit ethics from consideration.
Part of Scientific American’s rationale is that workable alternatives are emerging:
Testing on chimps has been a huge boon for humans in the past, contributing to the discovery of hepatitis C and vaccines against polio and hepatitis B, among other advances. Whether it will continue to bear fruit is less certain. Alternatives are emerging, including ones that rely on computer modeling and isolated cells. In 2008 pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline announced it would end its use of chimps.
At the very least, the editors write, if chimp testing continues, guidelines should be stricter: Continue reading