Thursday, July 26, 2012

The New Watered-Down Version of Oversight of U.S. Government-Funded Experimentation on Animals

Challenge a vivisector on the horrible things they do to animals and like an electric-shock-induced conditioned response they immediately regurgitate undigested gibberish about the "stringent" oversight they are subject to.

A key element in their practiced litany is always a small book-length document named the Guide for the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. This document is so fundamental to the publicly-funded system of oversight that most institutions receiving public funding are required to promise in writing that everyone at their institution will adhere to the document's guidelines. This written promise is called the "Animal Welfare Assurance." You can read a slightly outdated version of UW-Madison's here.

The Guide for the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, generally referred to as the Guide, was recently revised. The previous edition contained clear unambiguous language regarding an institution's responsibility to adhere to state and local laws and regulations governing the care and use of animals.

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (1996)

p. iii: "A footnote added to page 2 and referred to in three places reminds readers that the Guide is written for a broad international audience some of whom are not covered by either the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals or the Animal Welfare Regulations but that those who are covered by these rules must abide by them even when the Guide recommends a different approach. That admonition is provided throughout the Guide, but its placement in the Introduction was thought important."

Indicating that the authors intended that statements in the Introduction are important.

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p. 2: Introduction: "Animal facilities and programs should be operated in accord with this Guide, the Animal Welfare Regulations, or AWRs (CFR 1985); the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or PHS Policy (PHS 1996); and other applicable federal (Appendixes C and D) state, and local laws, regulations, and policies." [my emphasis throughout]

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p. 8: Chapter 1. First sentence of paragraph 2: "Each institution should establish and provide resources for an animal care and use program that is managed in accord with this Guide and in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations..."

Again and clearly -- and at the very outset -- stating the paramount importance of compliance with all applicable laws.

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p. 10: "After review and inspection, a written report, signed by a majority of the IACUC, should be made to the responsible administrative officials of the institution on the status of the animal care and use program and other activities as stated herein and as required by federal, state, or local regulations and policies."

This seems to imply that the IACUC is required to let the administrative officials of the institution know whether or not the program is operating in accord with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

But this hardly matters given the clear statements above and their prominent placement in the document.

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All reference to state, and local laws and regulations regarding animal use have been stripped from the new edition. A free pdf is available. You can search through it yourself.



If you search using the phrase local laws you will discover that the use of the phrase is reserved for references to local laws concerning the health and safety of the humans working around animals. I mentioned this on Rock Talk, Dr. Sally Rockey's blog. Rockey is the NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research. The response was that an institution's required adherence to state, and local laws and regulations is still implied. And then that short discussion was deleted.

The loss of clear language about having to adhere to state and local laws and regulations guts the Guide. Just prior to the rewrite's adoption we discovered that the University of Wisconsin, Madison had been violating the state law for a number of years -- clear unambiguous cases of not following the Guide as they promised to do year after year in their PHS "Animal Welfare Assurance." They staged fights between animals and killed others by means of decompression -- both outlawed in Chapter 951 of the Wisconsin Statutes. After having their long term violations exposed, the university ordered the state legislature to exempt them from the statute, and of course, they did. But the federal government didn't bat an eye over their repeated violations of state law, making it clear that an Assurance, and thus the system that rests upon it, doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

And while the governments apparent lack of concern over an institution's failure to adhere to their Assurance that it will follow the Guide could be construed to mean that any changes to the Guide are unimportant, this particular change officially gets vivisectors off the hook and releases institutions from even having to continue pretending to be familiar with state and local laws and regulations.

I was going to go on here about the problems that plague the oversight system and expose it as a sham, but in the process of looking something up, one of the first hits I got was to something I wrote a few years ago, so rather than continue here, I direct you to my essay: "Oversight".

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