Princeton U. names director to oversee compliance with animal treatment regulations

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Princeton U. names director to oversee compliance with animal treatment regulations

From Daily Princetonian, Friday, September 21, 2012

Nearly a year after animal rights groups began to intensely protest alleged animal abuse violations in University laboratories, the University has named a director of a new office that will oversee the University’s compliance with appropriate animal research guidelines and regulations.

Stuart Leland, who led animal welfare compliance in North America for Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, will do similar work for the University. As the University’s first director for research integrity and assurance, Leland will monitor the school’s research work and assess how well it is cooperating with laws governing human, animal and biological research regulations.

The University first announced the appointment on Thursday, though Leland has been serving in his current position since Aug. 15. Leland could not be reached for comment Thursday. An automatic email reply explained that he was out of the office until Friday. University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said there was no particular reason why the University chose to announce Leland’s appointment on Thursday.

Mbugua explained that Leland’s office was created in the spring of 2011, months before a report ranked the University’s lab violations record as second-worst among Ivy League schools. In September, the advocacy group Stop Animal Exploitation Now! began to campaign against the University’s abuses, eventually releasing a television commercial criticizing the University’s practices.

SAEN executive director Michael Budkie said Tuesday that the creation of the position was an admission by the University that the researchers had committed wrongdoing.

“The idea of the position is an admittance of the University that they have a problem,” Budkie said. “They would not have created this position were it not for public pressure and exposure of the problems that exist within the facility.”

Mbugua declined to directly comment on Budkie’s allegation of guilt, adding that the University “paid very close attention to animal care and protocol issues.” He also cited the November 2011 unannounced inspection by the USDA, which found no infractions.

Budkie also voiced worries about Leland’s background at Merck, where he said animal subjects were also treated inhumanely.

“Bringing someone in from the kind of environment that this gentleman is coming from does not bode well for the animals at Princeton,” Budkie said.  

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