Victories over vivisection

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2000:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Now mainly of symbolic importance, a victory sought by animal defenders since 1948 came quietly in early December when University of Minnesota Duluth School of Medicine dean Rick Ziegler, M.D., announced that his institution would no longer use dogs and cats from the Duluth Animal Shelter.

Associate professor of physiology Edwin Haller, M.D., told Bob Linneman of the Duluth News-Tribune that using animals of unknown genetic and medical history is no longer cost-effective. The university had used only two dogs in 1999. Use of shelter animals had fallen every year since 1993.

Pound seizure appeared to be ending where it began, when 52 years ago the Minnesota legislature rushed through the first of many state laws requiring animal shelters to allow laboratories to “adopt” dogs and cats for use in testing, teaching, and experimentation. Debate over compliance split the American Humane Association and American SPCA, leading to the formation of the Animal Welfare Institute (1952) and Humane Society of the U.S. (1954) as breakaway would-be rivals.

Pound seizure made dogcatching for resale to labs a growth industry, documented and exposed first in Minnesota by the late Lucille Aaron Moses. Also in Minnesota, seven years later, Aaron Moses and a Life magazine reporter photographed the 1966 expose of the then booming stolen dog traffic that led to the passage later that year of the forerunner to today’s Animal Welfare Act.

As the animal rights movement emerged, demand for random source dogs and cats declined. Thirteen states repealed pound seizure laws modeled on the Minnesota statute between 1978 and 1987. Minnesota, the first state where pound seizure was practiced, was also among the last.

American Anti-Vivisection Society executive director Tina Nelson on December 24 celebrated an equally quiet victory that may nonetheless prevent more animal suffering than any other single achievement of AAVS, founded in 1881.

“Responding to two years of legal battles,” Nelson explained, “the National Institutes of Health has announced that federally funded researchers will be directed to shift to in vitro methods of producing monoclonal antibodies except in limited circumstances. This policy change has the potential to save up to one million animals every year.”

An earlier AAVS release explained that “Monoclonal antibodies are used in essentially every field of human and veterinary research, and in diagnosing and treating many cancers, bacterial and viral infections, and other ailments.”

Commented John McArdle, director of the AAVS subsidiary Alternatives Research and Development Foundation, “U.S. researchers are finally joining their European colleagues in ending one of the most painful and unnecessary procedures routinely carried out on laboratory animals.”

Britain and many European nations either phased out or completely banned monoclonal antibody production in live animals some years ago.

The AAVS victory came ten weeks after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ended a five-month series of protests at appearances by vice president and presidential candidate Albert Gore, following distribution of a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency to 900 companies which are to participate in the High Production Volume chemical safety testing program announced by Gore on Earth Day 1998.

The HPV program as originally structured might have used as many as 1.3 million animals to test about 2,800 widely used industrial chemicals.

The EPA letter amended the HPV protocol by stipulating that animal testing should not be done if validated non-animal alternative tests are available; LD50 tests which were requested for some chemicals will not be done for two years, while a non-animal test is studied as a possible replacement; the Department of Health and Human Services is to spend $4.5 million and the EPA $500,000 to develop non-animal tests; the EPA will accept data from international chemical safety databases which it previously overlooked; the EPA will accept data on genetic toxicity generated by a non-animal test; tests that would have used up to 300 birds each were scrapped; and other changes of approach will be used to minimize animal use.

PETA estimated that the amendments to the HPV protocol would save about 800,000 animals.

Overseas, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection on November 1 announced that it had “successfully challenged the U.K. government on the issue of licenses to perform the LD50 test.” This meant, the BUAV continued, that the Home Office is “planning to review or amend all licenses issued after September 1998,” when European Union research restrictions were adopted into British law, “and to further review all licenses for skin corrosivity and photo-irritation tests. This is in effect an LD50 [ a n d Draize skin irritancy test] b a n , ” BUAV said, “as the government has admitted that issuing further licenses would contravene the law.”

But Sunday Times p o l i t ical editor Michael Prescott proved to be misinformed when he opened his December 12 column by declaring that the British government “is to stop scientific experiments on puppies and dogs.”

Corrected the Home Office, “The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, which received Royal Assent in July and will come into force in the New Year, will tighten controls over commercial breeding establishments supplying dogs for the pet trade. Establishments breeding animals for laboratory use will be exempt from this law.”

Another potential disappointment came from Israel on December 12, where minister of education Yossi Sarid proclaimed a ban on animal experiments in schools. Similar bans have been proclaimed before without ever being enforced.

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