Animal rights activists protest animal testing in UC laboratories

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].