NEW HAVEN — An animal rights group is seeking an independent investigation into what it alleges is “multiple incidents of negligence within the animal experimentation program at Yale University.”
In a letter sent Feb. 10 to Yale President Peter Salovey, the group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! asked for the investigation based on 11 incidents that have allegedly killed or abused more than 250 animals in two years.
“Compared to other universities, that is a high number of animals dying through instances of negligence, particularly when you have a high number of animals dying at one time,” Michael Budkie said Monday.
However, Karen N. Peart, university director of external communications, said in a statement Monday that Yale “takes seriously its responsibility for the appropriate care of animals; our laboratories comply with or exceed all federal regulations and independent accreditation standards.”
“As we continue to advance scientific knowledge and modern medicine, providing hope for millions of patients and their families, Yale scientists will sustain their commitment to the appropriate use of animals in research. Our faculty members employ animals only when there are no alternative models for advancing their research,” Peart said.
Budkie and his wife, Karen Budkie, are co-founders of the group, based in Milford, Ohio.
The totals were drawn from reports Yale is required to submit to the National Institutes of Health whenever there is an incident of neglect, abuse or death of experimental animals. The reports are required because Yale receives federal funds for its research.
“This ongoing pattern of carelessness and negligence not only subjected hundreds of animals to unnecessary cruelty and death, but also raises serious questions regarding the competence of Yale research staff,” Budkie wrote to Salovey.
“For if the staff cannot even be trusted to provide adequate food or water, follow their own protocols, or effectively monitor animals to prevent drowning, suffocation, or hyperthermia, then what does that say about the credibility of animal experimentation at Yale?” the letter stated.
The letters to the NIH included these reports:
A digital controller managing the heating and cooling system failed on March 6, 2017, “resulting in dangerously high humidity and temperature,” causing 90 mice to die or require euthanasia.
On Aug. 4, 2017, lesions were found on the tails of nine mice after they were irradiated and given bone marrow cells through their tails and then warmed by a heat lamp at too high a temperature. Two died and six had to be euthanized.
On Oct. 8, 2016, four of five mice died because they had no food in their cages. In the same report, Yale said 19 mice over 21 days old had their tails clipped, violating protocol, and had to be given pain-killing medication.
On April 28, 2016, four of 16 rats in a hypoxia chamber suffocated because the cage was stacked on others and its ventilation vent was blocked.
“For the most part, these are very basic problems,” Budkie said. “It’s extremely disturbing that a research facility the size of Yale and the prestige that that university has is incapable of making sure the animals are receiving food or water.”
He said many of the incidents had occurred over time. “What does that say about the competence of their staff and their ability to perform any kind of research that is meaningful in a scientific sense,” he said.
But Peart said the university “also takes seriously any animal care and use incidents and has created a culture in which the incidents are brought forward by all levels of the organization, fully investigated, corrective action is taken immediately, including disciplinary action if warranted, and reported to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and outside agencies as appropriate.”
“Yale uses incidents to inform continuous improvement,” Peart said. “In fact, Yale personnel are extremely diligent and caring about their animal care and use responsibilities, which is why these incidents, collectively, represent the rare occurrence. Thus, when comparing the number of incidents across different institutions, one must take into account program size and reporting practices.”
The Budkies founded their organization in 1996 and Michael Budkie said he reviews the reports from the NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare for more than 1,000 research facilities.
“When we bring up issues like this, we don’t bring them up if we’re not seeing something significant,” he said. “There’s a certain threshold in our opinion that you have to cross in terms of the seriousness of the problem and the number of them.”
He said SAEN opposes all animal research. “Our goal is not to get it regulated. We want to see it ended,” he said. “Animal research is a waste of time and money.” He said a better research method is the “organ on a chip technique,” in which human cells are cultured on a microchip and are able to mimic the functions of entire organs.
Budkie said Yale receives more than $150 million in federal funds for animal research, based on NIH reports.
In his letter to Salovey, Budkie demanded that Yale “launch an independent investigation of Yale’s animal experimentation practices to be conducted by a panel of experts including members of the animal rights community” and “at the conclusion of the investigation immediately terminate all staff responsible for the incidents which killed or abused animals.”
Contact Ed Stannard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-680-9382.