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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
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"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Articles and Reports

Independent veterinary assessment of biomedical research at Charles River Laboratories

The federal Animal Welfare Act prohibits subjecting animals to experiments likely to cause more than �momentary or slight pain or distress,� unless written evidence has been provided demonstrating that a detailed search for non-animal alternatives was unsuccessful. In such cases, �appropriate sedatives, analgesics or anesthetics� must be used, unless �withholding such agents is necessary for scientific reasons,� in which case the experiment must not continue for longer than necessary.

The USDA is the federal agency responsible for inspecting research centers and ensuring compliance with the Act. The 2005 USDA inspection reports of Charles River Laboratories reveal serious violations of the Act, including:

         Six experiments which proceeded despite insufficient evidence that searches for non-animal alternatives had been unsuccessful, or that did not include the use of sedatives, analgesics or anesthetics, despite inadequate scientific justification for withholding them. These experiments resulted in severe suffering that was observed and documented by the attending veterinarian. This included marked neurological, circulatory and breathing disorders, including the inability to stand, cold extremities and congested mucous membranes (signs of severe circulatory compromise), and rapid, irregular breathing. 21 animals were found in a �moribund� state (near death), and required euthanasia. 21 others died from the effects of the experimental drugs they were given before euthanasia could be provided.

         A rabbit with a suspected broken leg that was not provided with analgesics or other treatment or referred to a veterinarian until the following day, when the diagnosis was confirmed and the rabbit was euthanased. The records of this experiment stated that the rabbit did not experience pain or distress, was properly cared for, and did not require any additional action.

In total, the USDA cited Charles River Laboratories for 22 violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2005. Other serious violations related to further inadequate veterinary care and inadequate housing causing a high incidence of feet injuries in dogs.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) are required under the Act to approve only those experiments in which the expected scientific benefits outweigh the expected animal welfare costs, and in which unnecessary suffering is prevented. The experiments cited by the USDA clearly violate the ethical justifications required for a permissible experiment.

Additionally, they raise substantial scientific concerns. Recent comprehensive reviews published in laboratory animal science journals have revealed that even routine laboratory procedures such as handling, blood collection, and gavaging[1] (insertion of a throat tube for the forced administration of a test compound) and standardised laboratory housing[2] cause significant laboratory animal stress, to which animals do not readily habituate. Inadequacies in housing predisposing to injury, accompanied by severe, unrelieved suffering, as occurred in these experiments at Charles River Laboratories, are likely to substantially elevate such stress levels. The results include the distortion of normal physiology, disruption of hormonal regulation, impedance of neuroanatomical development and cognitive ability, behavioral stereotypies, immunosuppression, and, of particular significance with respect to these experiments, increased susceptibility to adverse drug reactions or other pathologies. In short, Charles River Laboratories� treatment of these animals has damaged them as experimental models. The scientific outcomes that resulted are likely to be even further removed from human outcomes than would be achieved by the use of healthy, non-stressed animals, as intended by the Act. Such scientific distortion can only compound the already severe biological and mathematical obstacles inherent in accurate extrapolation of animal test results to predicted human outcomes.[3]

Consequently, these experiments not only fail the humane and ethical standards required by the Animal Welfare Act, but also cannot be expected to provide scientifically reliable data.

Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, CertAW, MRCVS


[1] Balcombe J, Barnard N, Sandusky C. Laboratory routines cause animal stress. Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science 2004;43(6):42-51.

[2] Balcombe J. Laboratory environments and rodents' behavioural needs: a review. Laboratory Animals 2006;40(3):217-35.

[3] Knight A, Bailey J, Balcombe J. Animal carcinogenicity studies: 2. obstacles to extrapolation of data to humans. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 2006;34(1):29-38.

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