Animal rights activists protest animal testing in UC laboratories

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Taryn Smith/Staff

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The death of animal test subjects in a UC Berkeley laboratory in 2011, recently cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sparked a protest Wednesday including 15 UC Berkeley students and animal activists in front of Barker Hall.

The protest was organized by the East Bay chapter of Direct Action Everywhere, an international animal rights advocacy group. Demonstrators displayed signs that read, “It’s not science, it’s violence” as they chanted, “Animals lives are their right. We have just begun to fight.”

In 2011, five small, long-tailed rodents, called voles, died as a result of neglect and dehydration after being used for a study. There was an inspection of the laboratory a year later, and last week, the USDA announced it would fine the university $8,750 for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

“Scientists should not perform experiments on animals if the animal would not consent or if the animal would be harmed in any way,” said Brian Burns, a Direct Action Everywhere organizer and activist. “Trials with consenting humans are often alternatives, but some more violent practices, like mutilation, will probably not have an alternative.”

The animal testing performed at UC Berkeley is overseen by the Office of Laboratory Animal Care and the Animal Care and Use Committee on campus. According to its website, the Animal Care and Use Committee is focused on creating and maintaining a high standard of care and use in the handling of research and testing performed on animals.

“(The animals’ death) was a very unfortunate and unacceptable incident that is clearly outside of the norm for our high quality program,” said Roger Van Andel, director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Care, in an email last week.

While the protest was a reaction to the 2011 incident, the activists more generally hoped to raise awareness about broader issues related to speciesism.

Animals used in UC Berkeley laboratories include mice, rats, rabbits, wild rodents, hyenas and many species of ectotherms.

“Ultimately, the goal would be to get UC Berkeley to no longer test on animals,” said Kyana Jones, a UC Berkeley sophomore and president of Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy. “More broadly, we hope to create a cultural shift, not treating animals as if they are things, having individuals speak up and making the movement larger and more vocal.”

Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy plans to protest monthly to keep the pressure on UC Berkeley regarding the use of involuntary animal testing subjects.

“We hope that students and researchers at the University of California will stop using animals and will realize they matter as much as we do,” Burns said. “If they were our friends and family in those cages, we would set them free.”

Contact Taryn Smith at [email protected].

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  • patandmaryscott

    Animal abuse extremists and their colleagues recently confronted a group holding a vigil for the primates in the labs of the University of California, Los Angeles. This Progress for Science video is both shocking as well as illustrative of the mindset of those who conduct experiments on animals in an age where more effective, scientifically accurate, and morally justifiable research methods are available. That vivisection continues speaks volumes for the power of mammon.

  • AnOski

    There is no way to avoid consuming products made in our modern society that were not refined and shown to be safe via animal testing. It is impossible. Animal testing allows us to avoid first-generation biological testing of compounds on people. Animals are not self-cognizant. This is a non-issue.

    • Brian

      Have you ever interacted with an animal, aside from perhaps hurting them? To say that animals are not aware of the world around them, can not feel, think, or be is to be extraordinarily detached from reality.

      • AnOski

        Your alternative is human testing or no testing at all. Let the trials on third world citizens begin!

    • catty

      AnOski doesn’t know what he’s talking about….there are ton fewer animals used in testing than there were 20 years ago thanks to innovations….and it will only decrease more and more. The former NIH director has described AnOski’s thinking as “drinking the Kool-Aid” – something he admitted he did himself……and animals are not self-cognizant? Have you taken any animal behavior classes recently? You should read up a little.

      • AnOski

        You don’t seem to understand how drugs are developed. We try to understand how the human body works (complex enzymes, proteins, hormones, etc.), and we try to make equally complex compounds that interact with a limited number of these (because the more generalized they are, the worse your side-effects will be).

        When it comes down to it, once you’re done with the theory, you either have to test these compounds on animals or people.

        Traditionally, the progression is animals, and then failure, because the compounds have horrible effects on other aspects of the animals.

        So, the other option would be to test on people first.

        If you offered enough money, perhaps you’d find volunteers. Especially from third world countries where people already throw their well-being away for pennies a day.

        I favor animal testing for things like this. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like killing things. But if killing a few mice, rabbits, pigs, and monkeys will save some people from equally horrible fates, that’s a good thing in my book.

        If you disagree…I don’t know what to say to you.

        • Patzi

          Or how about just stop coming up with synthetic medicine and cure the root of the illness in the first place, naturally? Most illness is a direct result of diet/environment. If it’s genetic, then survival of the fittest would naturally cancel that out eventually (sad but true). Humans have been around much longer without your “medicine” than they have with it. It’s just an excuse to not find better alternatives…you can’t solve a problem with the same type of mind that created it…that’s a pretty famous quote and definitely applies here. Whether it’s makeup or medicine, it’s time to change. The human race should be better than this… I don’t understand how someone could be ok with doing this to an animal…to intentionally cause extreme pain to a helpless creature…?

  • Brian

    Fantastic article, Taryn – I’m happy to see the issue of animal experimentation getting coverage in the Daily Californian!

  • I believe UC Berkeley should BAN ALL ANIMAL TESTING. Instead I think we should conduct experiments on Roger Van Andel, director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Care, who said “[The animals’ death] was a very unfortunate and unacceptable incident that is clearly outside of the norm for our high quality program.” Since he did not die while the animal did, he obviously will not object to any experiments performed on him by his “high quality program”.

    • TA

      Every single drug on the market today is there because it was proven to be safe enough in animal studies to be able to proceed to human clinical trials. Unless you either A) never take any pharmaceutical ever again or B) personally volunteer to be the test subject for every unknown drug synthesized every day, using animals in a careful, respectful, and humane way is the only solution. I personally performed animal research at UCB and the program is top notch. I had hours of training and the experiments were constantly double checked for compliance. You even have to go through a lengthy process to prove beyond a doubt that your experiments were worth the sacrifice of the animal, have never been done previously, and are of considerable scientific value. This is not violence. It is extremely humane and carefully controlled.

      • Brian

        Would you personally volunteer for any experiments you have overseen? I think speaking for someone else and saying that killing them is justified for the greater good, without taking their perspective into account, is extraordinarily disrespectful. This same reasoning justified testing on racial minorities and disabled children in the last century.

        • TA

          I’m sure you have been vaccinated, right?
          I’m sure you have taken an antibiotic before, right?

          I’m sure you have taken a Tylenol, right?

          3 tiny examples of stuff YOU have used, thanks to animal research. Wouldn’t exist without it. Sorry. We can’t ask a mouse how he feels. I don’t doubt that he feels, nor that he feels pain, nor that he suffers. He does. Absolutely. There’s no question about it. But you yourself have partaken in the benefits of that research that mouse was a part of. To say you aren’t is ignorant.

      • Great TA…then next we’ll do these experiments starting with you. Let us know how it goes. Just think about your contribution to science and public health. I am sure it will ease your pain.

        • TA

          It does ease my pain. I sleep very well knowing a few hundred model organisms were sacrificed to save millions from malaria. It’s still a rampant issue: 1.2 million people died from malaria in 2010. That’s 1.2 million in ONE YEAR.

          It’s actually quite disturbing to see that you prefer to see 1 million humans die every year than a handful of mice. Does that really make you feel self righteous? And this is 1 disease we’re talking about. Every other disease treatment available has also been brought to you by no other than model organisms.

          But yes, if I could save that many people with my own life, I would. That’s definitely a worthy sacrifice.