Animal rights non-profit People for Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint against the University of Michigan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Feb. 6 for allegedly violating 18 federal animal welfare guidelines between 2018 and 2022. PETA has previously criticized the University for the use of animal testing in research. In 2019, PETA said the University was among the “worst” universities in the nation for animal testing and, in 2020, PETA sent a letter to University administration requesting an end to unnecessary animal testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PETA announced they were filing the complaint with the USDA in hopes that they would investigate PETA’s allegations against the University. In their announcement, PETA Vice President Alka Chanda said PETA wants the USDA to ban U-M researchers who have violated federal animal testing guidelines from experimenting with animals in the future.
“U-M’s disregard for federal law is killing animals,” Chandna said. “Every one of the reckless experimenters involved should never be allowed near an animal again.”
According to the U-M Animal Use guidelines the University is committed to adhering to high animal welfare standards throughout the testing process. For instance, the University promises to provide appropriately lit and well-ventilated housing for animals in addition to nutritional food and veterinary healthcare.
According to an investigation from PETA, about 12,000 animals were killed while being experimented on in U-M laboratories over the past four years. In the investigation, PETA claims animals have died because researchers gave them expired drugs, limited their access to water and failed to provide them the proper medication when needed. All of those offenses violate the federal Animal Welfare Act, according to PETA.
On Feb. 6, Andrea Kuchy, a research assistant for PETA, sent a letter to University President Santa Ono on behalf of the organization detailing the specific instances in which they felt U-M researchers had been negligent when working with animals. Kuchy wrote that the University administration should immediately revoke a researcher’s privilege of working with animal test subjects if they violate the AWA or University protocol. According to Kuchy, PETA believes this has not happened over the past four years at the University.
“(The University’s) negligence and disregard for basic animal welfare must not be allowed to continue,” Kuchy wrote. “Such problems will persist unless strong deterrents are implemented.”
In the letter, PETA also called for the University to implement the Research Modernization Deal — a strategy created by PETA that guides research institutions towards exclusively using animal-free testing methods.
In an email to The Michigan Daily, Kuchy said PETA has not yet received a response from the University.
“The silence from President Ono’s office has been deafening,” Kuchy wrote. “As the head of a top tier, progressive school, President Ono has championed many important issues such as sustainability, mental health and climate concerns, but he is missing in action when it comes to ensuring ethical treatment of animals in the University laboratory.”
In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said the University is consistently working to comply with research standards and investigate all allegations of mistreatment.
“We are committed to providing quality care of the animals from highly-trained, licensed veterinarians and veterinary techs in our research laboratories,” Broekhuizen wrote. “All findings of non-compliance are fully investigated and met with a requirement of corrective action. We will continue to insist upon compassionate and humane treatment of all animals entrusted to our care.”
LSA freshman Madeleine Rodgers works in a research lab at the University and has personally worked on experiments involving animals. Rodgers worked at an animal experimentation lab at the University during her junior year of high school in 2021. She was a part of an angiogenesis study and looked at blood vessel formations in mice.
In an interview with The Daily, Rodgers said she is starting a new project this semester that will involve animal testing as well, but she does not have much information on what exactly she will be researching yet. In spite of PETA’s complaint against the University, Rodgers said she believes the University upholds the standards for ethical animal testing.
“I cannot say I know much about what goes on behind the scenes, or the work that PETA does with academic institutions, but I will say I am surprised, because every experience I’ve had at the University with animal research has been positive and professional,” Rodgers said. “I believe the framework in place at the University puts the well-being of the animals first while recognizing the importance of animal materials for use in science and medicine.”
In Kuchy’s email to The Daily, she encouraged U-M students to advocate for an end to animal testing at the University.
“PETA encourages U-M students to call on the school’s administration to implement measures to shift away from the use of animals, toward modern, non-animal, human-relevant methodologies,” Kuchy said.
Daily Staff Reporter Emma Lapp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.