In a World Deemed Safe and Well-Managed - Essays From SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

In a World Deemed Safe and Well-Managed

By Michael Budkie

After 34 years of fighting to end animal experimentation, you would think that I would have at least gotten used to the information. You would think that there wouldn't be any new kind of dismemberment to take in, nothing I hadn't already seen. After decades of processing the details about abuses of dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, ferrets, goats, sheep, pigs, guinea pigs, rats, mice, and other animals too numerous to mention, you would at least think that it might not hurt so much to read about the deaths. But the pain is still there. The horrific images generated in my mind still make me wince. I still have tears for the innocent dead.

A two page report from the University of Notre Dame shouldn't be enough to generate a nightmare.

One word can make it all worse. Intentional. It is much easier to talk about negligence, carelessness, accidents. Deliberate abuse is somehow more painful to read about. How can someone be so maligned, so warped as to deliberately injure an animal? The page says: "a live mouse was intentionally struck against a table." I can see the mouse. I can hear the thunk of the impact. I can't STOP hearing it.

But that is only one small part of the horrible whole, only one of the ghastly images. What was supposed to be a bland report is instead a catalogue of grisly abuse. "Two (2) mice were found with missing limbs." How did it happen? Was it more intentional abuse? Were they accidentally crushed when closing the enclosure? Were the mice in so much pain that they attacked their own bodies?

"Two (2) mice were found with bowels exteriorized post-surgery with sutures and wound clips out." They were found this way -- insides spilling out. Was the lab staff so oblivious that they hadn't noticed, or were they so callous that they didn't care? I can only wonder how someone becomes so totally and utterly insensitive. How does someone with medical/biological training, someone who knows how intensely painful this must be, ignore it? How can you care so little?

At one point I didn't believe that truly evil people existed. I used to believe that everyone had some good inside of them. I used to believe that everyone had the capacity to be kind, even loving. "intentionally struck against a table . . . missing limbs . . . bowels exteriorized."

If this isn't evil then I am not sure what is.

All of this comes from one seemingly small lab inside the University of Notre Dame. A relatively small player in terms of animal experimentation. They don't have hundreds of grants. They apparently don't use thousands of animals. But, they are still capable of something that can only be called evil. They are capable of causing nightmares for both the animals and for us.

While University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN) may be unique in terms of intentionality, they are certainly not unique in terms of abusing mice. The Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) has demonstrated an excessively disturbing ability to be fatally negligent.

The staff of the Mayo Clinic has an appalling tendency to forget to feed or provide water to animals, specifically rats and/or mice. Their failures are so rampant that a federal agency responsible for enforcing animal care standards required more frequent reporting from the Mayo Clinic because the problem was considered to be "a programmatic issue."

From April 2017 - January 2020 (approximately two and 3/4 years), over 80 mice died due to lack of food or water. Imagine waiting for days for sustenance that never comes. Your mouth becomes irrevocably parched. The hunger is so severe as to be painful. Then the gradual weakening until collapse and death. Upon further examination, we have recently discovered that the string of dehydration/starvation deaths actually goes back much further -- all the way back to March 2015. The pile of bodies is higher that we had realized.

The ultimate cruelty may be to refuse euthanasia to a fatally suffering animal. To avoid this extreme abuse laboratories have instituted something called a 'humane endpoint.' This means that the point at which animals must be euthanized to prevent severe and needless suffering is defined before the experiment is actually begun.

Failing to adhere to humane endpoints may be the ultimate cruelty. Keeping a clearly suffering animal alive unnecessarily is incomprehensible. However, the staff at the Mayo Clinic went this one better. After being ordered by facility veterinary staff to euthanize a mouse, lab staff failed to do so, not for a single day -- but for THREE WEEKS!

The abysmal suffering endured by this mouse can only be likened to a living hell -- and it was all unnecessary, even prohibited. But apparently this made no difference.

The labs always make the same kind of statements assuring us that everything is really ok, and that they have the animals’ best interests at heart. A spokesperson for the Mayo Clinic tells us that they "ensure animals are safe and managed humanely in all respects.” A Notre Dame University spokesperson stated: “Notre Dame is committed to protecting the welfare of animals used in research."

If these statements were true in any meaningful way, then there would never have been any reports of animal deaths/injuries/abuse filed, and we would not be discussing these facilities. The suffering that the animals endure is exceeded only by the hypocrisy of those institutions that are responsible for inflicting the suffering.

As difficult as it has become to be a witness to the never-ending cacophony of animal suffering and abuse that pours out of our nation's laboratories, it would be even worse to do nothing. As palpably painful as the mental images are for all of us working to end animal experimentation, it is absolutely nothing compared to the animals' agony. And now that we know that this takes place, we simply cannot turn away. The knowledge of the inherent abuse which is the basis of all animal experimentation would haunt us wherever we would go, no matter what we would do. The cries of the innocent will always reverberate in our ears, no matter what we do.

The only recompense that comes to us arises from exposing the abusers. Their fondest desire is simply to be anonymous, to remain hidden, to fly way under the radar. Our goal is to rip them out of the shadows, forcing them into the light so that the general public can see them for what they really are, and share our dismay at the truth. If we do nothing to end it, all of us are responsible for allowing animal experimentation to continue. Unless we are working to empty the cages, we might as well be locking the animals in with our own hands.

As I write this essay, an Associated Press story which reveals the animal abuse of Notre Dame University is spreading across the internet, appearing on over 1000 news media web pages, and creeping higher. I am saddened by the fact that people are experiencing for themselves the shocking details of this abuse, with irremediable pictures forced into their minds. However, I also feel a wave of glee sweeping over me. Notre Dame University knows that they can't hide. The individuals directly responsible for these heinous acts know that they can't hide. They know that millions of people across the U.S. are reading about their misdeeds. And the truth has also been broadcast across their home town. Their friends and neighbors may know. Do people look at them differently? Will the Notre Dame administration be angered by the embarrassment and fire them? Will their lab be closed permanently? What about their career?

Know this, we are nowhere near done with Notre Dame.

give direct

Read more Essays