USDA: No infractions in animal research
“The report underlines our commitment to strong oversight of animal research through an approach of continuous review of Princeton’s Institutional Animals Care and Use Committee,” University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said in an email. “We pay very close attention to animal care and protocol issues that need to be addressed and we have made changes as appropriate.”
This result comes after a string of lab infractions extending back to 2010. Following a May 2011 routine inspection, the USDA sent a formal warning letter to the University that it had found lab primates being deprived of water for up to 24 hours, unapproved anesthetics, an isolated incident of a marmoset escaping its cage and a non-compliance documentation issue. The warning threatened $3,750 fines for any future infractions discovered in the next inspection.
This negative publicity spurred a backlash from animal activists groups that has spanned this academic year. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a pro-organic organization with funding ties to PETA, published a report on Sept. 21 that listed the University as second-worst in the Ivy League for animal testing violations behind Penn.
The organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now! initiated a campaign against the University to end its use of experimentation using non-human primates and other animals. Early this fall, the group published an anonymous “whistleblower” account by a former employee on its website documenting violations extending back to 2004 that were never revealed.
However, Mbugua found none of the accusations raised in the whistleblower account were ever raised in the University’s forum for anonymous grievances during the years listed.
Most recently, SAEN and other regional animal activist organizations in the New Jersey and New York areas have targeted the Borough community in support of their cause. The groups united twice last fall to protest for an end to animal experimentation. SAEN has also sponsored a commercial that has run on Animal Planet and other networks that negatively depicts the University’s treatment of animals.
Mbugua has maintained the University’s commitment to proper animal research conduct and the importance of animal use in research. “We are committed to ensuring that statistical analysis, modeling and use of alternative biological experimentation methods are used when appropriate as a substitute or complement for research involving animals,” Mbugua said in an email.
In May 2010, the USDA found 11 infractions regarding animal testing. In May 2011, it found six, resulting in a formal warning. The November USDA report comes as the result of a follow-up inspection to a complaint filed against the University by SAEN.