“The research we are conducting is required by regulatory authorities around the world before marketing new life-saving drugs,” she wrote. For more than twenty years, Inotiv has been directly and indirectly involved in the development of alternative methods of biomedical research. Snicker could not immediately comment on the seizure of the dogs from the Invigo facility in Cumberland.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which approves drugs for human use, companies conduct animal tests “to discover how the drugs work and whether they are likely to be safe and effective for human use.” But the service says it does not provide for animal testing.
However, drug companies do tests on animals regularly, according to Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society, because it is “the status quo.” “A lot of money goes to breeding and then using these animals.” She sees reliance on animal testing as a form of “indifference” and believes the FDA should promote the development of innovative and humane testing methods, such as the use of organ chips, 3D printing of human tissue and computer modeling.
According to FDA spokeswoman Veronica Pfeiffel, her agency aims to “reduce reliance on animal-based research” and has already taken important steps to “replace, reduce, and refine such tests.” Working groups have been set up to promote new technologies, but “there are still many areas where animal research is scientifically necessary,” Pfeiffel said.
For example, alternative methods “cannot always predict any updates” that may occur in the human body. She says animal experiments have been crucial to the development of polio drugs, smallpox eradication, and vaccines against COVID-19. If animal experiments are necessary for scientific research, Pfeiffel said, “the animals involved must be well cared for, according to strict and humane guidelines.”
But the Food and Drug Administration is not responsible for overseeing the humane treatment of animals. which fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA and AAALAC. For example, if an animal is experiencing severe discomfort, USDA guidelines require a center to “ensure that animals’ pain and discomfort are minimized,” and establish a protocol for putting the animal to sleep.
At the Inotiv facility in Indiana, a Humane Society researcher watched employees administer doses of medication to animals that were shivering, vomiting, and having trouble breathing. According to the report, one lab technician, at the behest of a vet, continued to administer the doses to a monkey in apparent distress, stating, “I’m really sorry, lady. This will probably be your last dose. I really hope so, because gradually it’s just torture.”
With more than 1,300 animals, the Inotiv Lab in Indiana only had one vet between August 2021 and March 2022, according to the Humane Society study. According to the organization, less than 50 employees had plenty of work to do to do daily animal care, including trimming their toenails. The researcher reported that the monkeys were left tied to chairs without supervision and that two of the animals accidentally hanged themselves.
Animal welfare experts are shocked not only by the USDA’s refusal to intervene earlier, but also by the AAALAC’s lack of oversight. According to the Institute of Animal Welfare, AAALAC only inspects its member centers once every three years, and the industry accrediting body has dismissed several previous animal welfare cases that violated USDA guidelines as minor. Nor has the AAALAC report been made public.
Block says AAALAC certification guidelines are “not enough” to ensure the animals’ welfare. According to her, there is talk of “the proverbial butcher who inspects his meat.”
Catherine Payne, AAALAC’s International Director, defended the organization in an email: “AAALAC International takes information about inadequate care of research animals at institutions participating in the accreditation program very seriously. Investigations have been opened.”
The most recent inspection of the Inotiv lab by the Department of Agriculture, in August 2021, recorded no violations, despite Humane Society investigations finding several violations during the same period. According to Kleiman, the numerous and serious violations observed at the Invigo Center and the alleged failure to follow proper euthanasia procedures should destabilize the ministry and lead to tighter oversight and enforcement of animal farms and research laboratories. “Research institutions will not deceive themselves.”
Kleiman believes that the USDA should send a very clear signal that “no matter how big, strong, or wealthy these companies are,” they will not escape cruelty to animals. “This is a dirty industry,” Block says. “You see cruelty everywhere, from start to finish.”
National Geographic Society Watch supports Wildlife Watch, our investigative journalism project focused on wildlife crime and wildlife exploitation. Read m hereHonor Wildlife Watch articles, and send tips, comments and story ideas to NGP.WildlifeWatch@natgeo.com. Learn more about the mission of the nonprofit National Geographic Society at natgeo.com/impact.
This article was originally updated on May 19 at 6:00 AM and a half hour later with news of the USDA seizure of dogs from the Envigo facility.
This article was originally published in English at NationalGeographic.com