The front page of Missouri's St Louis Post-Dispatch includes an article by Todd C. Frankel headed, "Animal rights spy infiltrates Missouri lab."
The article tells the story of an under-cover investigation by a young woman back by PETA. She worked for nine months at the Sinclair Research Center animal laboratory.
Frankel writes that a month after she quit, "her work surfaced as the backbone for PETA's launch of a negative publicity campaign against Sinclair and several of its clients, including pet food giant Iams, St. Louis-based Nestle Purina Petcare and St. Louis biotech firm Isto Technologies. PETA has splashed allegations on its Web site, called news conferences and complained to federal regulators to end what it calls a 'hidden world of cruelty,' where it claims terrified animals are confined to small cages for dubious research."
"But figuring out what to believe is not so simple."
His article is relatively balanced, including quotes from Mary Beth Sweetland, PETA's director of research and investigations, and from Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research. However it includes misinformation that favors the research community:
Frankel writes, "In animal research labs, the law of the land is the federal Animal Welfare Act. It sets up minimum standards of care and treatment. They include requiring that dogs have the chance to exercise and that all animals are given anesthesia or pain-relieving medication to minimize pain and distress."
In truth, the researcher, with the permission of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee has the discretion not to comply with those guidelines if he/she feels it will interfere with the experiment. Each University or company has its own IACUC which will, in effect, be denying NIH grant money to its own institution any time it turns down a research proposal.
The Humane Society of the United States, more conservative than animal rights organizations on animal testing issues, discusses the topic of pain and suffering in research at: http://www.hsus.org/ace/11425?pg=1
We learn that ten percent of the over one million animals used in research fall into what the USDA lists as "Category C," a category in which pain or distress is not alleviated because pain-relieving drugs would interfere with the research. The HSUS website also makes it clear that pain and distress are grossly under-reported by researchers.
So PETA has an under-cover team to help redress the issue.
"The campaign has made an impact. Sinclair, which denies there was systemic animal abuse while admitting there were problems, has already lost clients. Forty percent of its staff has been laid off."
Some of the suffering the under-cover worker documented is noted in the article. For example,
"Dogs walking gingerly on metal-slotted cage floors, the bars too narrow for their paws. In one scene, a beagle has its leg stuck in the slotted bottom. The dog is obviously in pain and can't move. Another dog is later shown after being rescued from having its leg caught. As the animal holds its left hind leg off the ground because of the pain, the camera zooms in on a severe red and green wound."
Frankel writes early in the article, "USDA inspectors make surprise visits to the facilities each year. According to the USDA, Sinclair has no record of wrongdoing." However, seeming to call into question USDA inspections, we learn, "The day after the news conference, a team from Iams visited Sinclair for a surprise inspection. They found problems with the air temperature and ventilation in the cage rooms, a lack of resting boards for the dogs and inadequate socialization for the animals." Iams cancelled its contract with Sinclair.
Frankel tells us that "companies and institutions have tried unsuccessfully for years to stop these undercover operations."
Why? Should a company doing nothing of which society would disapprove have anything to fear from hidden cameras?
You can read the whole article on line at:
This Tiny URL might work better for you:
The front page story presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor questioning the use of nonhuman animals in research.
The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch takes letters at: [email protected]
Link: mailto:[email protected]
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when writing a letter to the editor.
A big thank you to Rachel Arnold for making sure I/we saw this story.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it at www.DawnWatch.com. To subscribe to DawnWatch, email [email protected] and tell me you'd like to receive alerts. If at any time you find DawnWatch is not for you, just let me know via email and I'll take you off the subscriber list immediately. If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited, leaving DawnWatch in the title and including this tag line.)