12, 90, 30
Taxpayer Funded Animal Experimentation
Shiva’s day consists of sitting around, eating rich, fatty foods, and drinking sugary drinks. Shiva is one, of a colony of monkeys, who has been isolated in a tiny cage at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC, which is a part of the Oregon Health and Science University), where taxpayer-funded animal experimenters seek to “induce the couch-potato style,” in order to ascertain if a lifestyle of eating fatty foods and lack of exercise may lead to obesity.
As Andrew Pollack accounts in the New York Times article, “Today’s Lab Rats of Obesity: Furry Couch Potatoes,” the ONPRC has over 4,000 Rhesus Macaques; approximately 150, where some of the “rotund rhesus,” receive daily insulin shots to treat diabetes, and others have clogged arteries. One monkey died of heart attack at a fairly young age. To induce the “couch-potato” lifestyle, the monkeys were allowed to eat an unlimited amount of pellets, while snacking daily on a 300-calorie chunk of peanut butter, at times eating treats such as popcorn or peanuts, while “gummy bears were abandoned because they stuck to the monkeys’ teeth.” The monkeys were also given a fruit-flavored drink with the fructose level equivalent to one can of soda; the monkeys consumed approximately twice as many calories as a normal-weight monkey, as evidenced by Shiva, who gained 15 pounds within a six month period, weighing approximately 45 pounds, twice the normal weight of a monkey his age. In order to monitor the monkey’s food intake, they were kept in individual cages “for months or years, which also limit their exercise.”
The conclusion Kevin L. Grove, Director of the Nonhuman Primate (NHP) Obese Resource, and his team of researchers discovered: “high-fructose corn syrup appears to accelerate the development of obesity and diabetes.” Other conclusions Grove and his colleagues discovered: “when pregnant monkeys ate a high-fat diet, their offspring had metabolic problems… [and] eating a healthy diet during pregnancy reduced troubles on the offspring. That suggests, he said, that the diet of a pregnant woman matters more than whether she is obese.” Conclusions that living a sedentary lifestyle while eating fatty foods may lead to obesity, and a pregnant woman’s diet affects the health of her baby, cost taxpayers several millions of dollars, in order for researchers to “discover.” The New York Times article reported that there was no necessity in cruel animal experimentation, “some companies see no need to use primates to study obesity and diabetes… it is almost as easy to do human studies.”
Attacking the Root: Wasteful Spending of Taxpayer Dollars
To Anthony Bellotti, Founder and National Campaign Manager of the White Coat Waste (WCW) Movement, wasteful government spending is at the root of the problem of animal experimentation; in order to solve the problem, he established the WCW Movement, a nonprofit “watchdog” organization, seeking to eradicate wasteful spending on cruel and ineffective animal experimentation. As many animal advocacy organizations focus on pushing for new regulations, government programs, or lifestyle changes (a transition into the cruelty-free lifestyle), WCW takes a novel approach: saving animals through fiscal responsibility.
Bellotti first entered the realm of animal experimentation at age 17, when he participated in a summer internship at a New York City animal experimentation laboratory in 1995. At this point in his life, Bellotti was unfamiliar with animal advocacy, taxes, or politics, especially in how crucial of a role politics can play in our daily lives. At age 17, Bellotti, like many kids his age, was preparing for college, and participated in the internship in hopes of a letter of recommendation for college admission. It was during this internship, where Bellotti watched the experimentation and assisted with it, that he learned the truth behind animal experimentation.
As Bellotti observes, 1995 was the “crucial year for this issue:” personally, because this was the year he was first exposed to animal experimentation, and this was the year the government decided to increase the budget for animal experimentation: the year this problem began. Bellotti accounts, when people associate animal experimentation from the fiscal standpoint, they believe it is primarily cosmetic companies and pharmaceutical companies which finance the experimentation. In actuality, animal experimentation is a government program, funded by taxpayers.
The budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH, the government’s medical research agency) in 1995 was approximately $10-11 billion dollars, where approximately half of it is spent on animal experimentation. By 2015, the NIH budget had tripled to $31 billion dollars, with spending on animal experimentation at a constant. In late December 2015, the government’s Omnibus spending bill allocated the largest NIH budget increase in a decade (what Bellotti considered a “blank check”), which translated to the largest taxpayer increase for animal experimentation; the NIH received an additional $2 billion (translating to approximately $1 billion spent on additional taxpayer-funded animal experimentation), the “largest increase for taxpayer-funded experimentation in 12 years, yet no alarm bells went off within the establishment animal movement.” It is in observation of this disturbing trend where Bellotti and those involved in the WCW Movement took action, recognizing that the issue of animal experimentation was never viewed as a wasteful government program, addressing the issue as a spending problem.
During his time at the laboratory, Bellotti’s first instinct: it was a “shop of horrors,” concerned, if this was one of the “good” labs, what was happening at the bad ones? Bellotti soon wanted to fight against the atrocities he had seen, but didn’t know where to begin through campaigning or politics. Perhaps Bellotti’s time at the laboratory influenced his career path; for the past fifteen years, Bellotti worked as a political consultant: as a consultant for governors, senators, numerous statewide ballot initiatives, and national issue advocacy groups in Washington, DC. Bellotti was inspired: what if he founded an entirely new movement against wasteful spending on animal experimentation modeled after his professional campaign experience in Washington, D.C.?
The WCW Movement began as an all volunteer organization with Bellotti contributing his own funds as the start up; he needed to start somewhere, recognizing that the problem was getting worse. WCW quickly gained attention for its singularity in the focus and innovative method of addressing the problem, and therefore finding a viable solution. Other groups fighting against animal testing addressed the issue from the aspects of compassion for animals, reformation of science, or alternatives to animal experimentation. Bellotti applauds these efforts, but knew he had to approach the issue from an entirely different perspective as no other organization was working exclusively on the fact that animal experimentation was funded by the taxpayers, without their consent, or their knowledge. Rather than focusing on only the animal welfare community, this campaign would be inclusive: people who were vegans, people who weren’t vegans; people who identified themselves as Democrats, people who identified themselves as Republicans; people who didn’t want their tax dollars funding animal experimentation or borrowing money from China; people who cared about animals; anyone could join this movement, regardless of their political party, as “everyone has a stake in this fight.”
To Bellotti, the key to solving the problem of cruel animal experimentation is to get to the root: wasteful government spending, by stopping the funds: taxpayer dollars. As antiquated as animal testing, so was the approach: chasing after the individual professors and private corporations who participated in animal experimentation. The “best case scenario” would be the professor ceasing the experimentation if he was protested long enough. However, this is an unlikely scenario; most likely, it is irrelevant in how many laboratories closed; as government spending increases, additional laboratories would take its place. The government has essentially incentivized animal experimentation, as college professors and universities who were never previously involved with animal experimentation, has opted to participate, with the support of the inflated NIH budget, making animal abuse profitable.
$12 Billion Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Wasteful Cruelty
The government currently spends approximately $12 billion dollars annually on wasteful and cruel animal experimentation. In 2015, Congress, through a bipartisan agreed upon bill, allocated to the NIH $31 billion for its budget, then the funds are allocated at the discretion of NIH. Bellotti elaborates: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tax you, where you then write your check to pay your taxes by April 15. Your taxes will then go to Congress, who then sets a number for the budget of the myriad of governmental agencies, such as the NIH; that set number is essentially a blank check to the NIH, with no spending oversight, with the justification that the NIH knows best in how to spend the funds. NIH states that 80 percent of its budget is allocated to “extra mural grants,” which are essentially payouts to their constituents for research: universities and professors. 80 percent of the $31 billion amounts to $24.8 billion; of that $24.8 billion, 47 percent will be allocated to animal experimentation, approximately $11.7 billion. 47 cents of each NIH research dollar, which approximates to $11.7 billion tax dollars, to inflict pain and fear against innocent beings. Despite this large amount, Bellotti is concerned, as these figures only reflect NIH payouts to colleges, without taking into account intramural spending on experimentation on its own campus, other agencies who participate in animal experimentation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and funds for the “intra-mural NIH budget,” animal experimentation done on the government campus (as opposed to the universities). The $12 billion figure is “only the floor, not the ceiling. The spending problem is so big we don’t’ even know how big it is.”
With his background as a campaign manager and political consultant, Bellotti and the WCW team analyzed decades of polls, focus groups, and other quantitative and qualitative public opinion research about animal experimentation. A major problem is that the general public of taxpayers is unaware that animal experimentation still exists. Some of the polling data indicated that only 3 percent of the general public was “very knowledgeable” about animals in laboratories. The WCW team also discovered a promising trend: the polling data indicated a drop in public support for animal experimentation, a steep 16 point drop between 2000 and 2008; yet the government is still spending billions of taxpayer dollars on this problem. Logically, public opinion would seem to be the driving factor in our federal government policies and programs, but this change in public opinion has failed to stop the growth of taxpayer funded animal experimentation over the past 20 years. “Changing public opinion is necessary, but it’s only a means to an end,” observes Bellotti. However, “public opinion has never moved so fast in this issue than now.” Although more education and changing culture are important, action from the taxpaying public is necessary.
Over 90 Percent Failure Rate
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM, a staff of physicians, dieticians, and scientists working with policymakers, the medical community, the media, and the public to create a better future for both people and animals), in pharmaceuticals, currently, drugs have over a 90 percent fail rate; the results yielded as safe from animal experimentation, failed in human clinical trials, or once they have reached the market. The failure rate is due to the significant genetic, molecular, and metabolic differences between humans and animals, where it impossible to accurately predict potential effects of chemicals on humans—a diverse population, and animals cannot accurately cover the vast diversity. As Bellotti observes, it is nonsensical to give laboratories additional money for failure, giving the example, if a NASA space shuttle crashes over 90 percent of the time, NASA is not rewarded with additional funds to build the same shuttle, or to fund other fruitless programs.
Despite the over 90 percent failure rate, researches continue to experiment on animals, yielding no cures for diseases researches are supposedly seeking. Perhaps one of the most infamous animal experimentations was forcing exhausted Beagles and other dogs to run on treadmills until they suffered heart attacks. This experiment was a legacy grant-funded experiment, where for nearly a generation at Wayne State University, dogs were tethered to treadmills, then forced to run until their hearts failed; this experiment cost taxpayers millions of dollars (grant #5R01HL055473). The justification for the experiment was in learning about the heart, and perhaps, finding a cure for heart disease. Yet no cure for heart disease has been discovered, none derived from this specific “experiment.” What the experiment did yield: a research paper, indicating a need for continual experimentation.
As Bellotti accounts, researchers used the justification of “learning about the heart,” yet to Bellotti, these experiments are worthless unless there is a “deliverable,” or a cure. Bellotti believes we are always learning, recounting his eighth grade geology class: as a classroom experiment, he and his classmates would pick up the myriad of rock, gems, and minerals, quantify their shapes and the texture; he and his classmates learned a myriad of things about the rocks, “but cured nothing.” Researchers cannot use the justification of learning through animal experimentation, as taxpayers are not “paying [researchers] to learn,” with the assumption that the ultimate goal in any taxpayer funded animal experimentation should be finding a cure, not to publish another research paper. In essence, these animal experiments only yield another research paper, with exaltations of a new “discovery,” and the need to continue experimentation for further discoveries. As Bellotti observes, unfortunately, most Beagles do not leave the laboratory alive, as their beautiful souls and strong bodies are reduced to an empty vessel and a bloody mess. WCW will post some of these images, for two reasons: people can see the truth of what truly occurs with animal experimentation; and to send the message to laboratories, “Stop hiding in college basements, we [the taxpayers] have the right to see it, to know how our money is being spent.”
Fighting for Survivors
In December 3, 2014, a crate was found on the side of a country, back road in Florida. Housed inside the crate was a female Beagle, barely alive. The senior Beagle had been shot through the neck, covered with blood. With the Beagle, were her two young puppies, who did not survive the bullet wounds, all discarded and disposed of. This Beagle’s name is Nelly, a name she has had only for a year; in her previous life as a laboratory research animal for at least ten years of her life, only known as JB20, a tattoo number which identifies her and other laboratory animals. Nelly was discarded when the lab deemed her no longer useful. Although laboratories may consider these animals as test subjects and commodities, others, including Terri Fraser, Nelly’s mom, and organizations such as the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP, which works with laboratories nationwide, in efforts to rescue these laboratory Beagle survivors to find them a loving home), only regard these animals as beautiful beings, deserving a life of love and security, with a loving family. Fortunately, a good Samaritan saw the crate while driving and contacted the BFP, immediately agreed to rescue Nelly and pay for her veterinarian bills, Nelly officially started her new life as a beloved family member on February 9, 2015.
Emma is also a laboratory Beagle survivor, rescued by the BFP. Emma was rescued on June 30, 2014, from a lab in the San Francisco Bay area, and was only identified by the tattoo number, 1924886 NYAA, before she was adopted by Lynn Bowen, Emma’s proud mom. Fortunately, the lab offered to release Emma (and a male Beagle), rather than killing them. Emma officially joined the Bowen family on July 15, 2014. When Bowen is out with Emma, people will notice Emma’s ears, in which both flaps have tears, a couple of inches long— the vehicle to initiate conversation about the perils of animal testing. (More)
Emma and Nelly are only two of the tens of thousands of animals, used in animal experimentation.
30-Year Legacy Grants
As the Beagles running on treadmills experiment was funded through a legacy grant, as was monkeys being forced to become addicted to a myriad of illegal drugs. As Bellotti accounts, a “legacy grant,” is a grant which continuously funds an experiment in hopes of discovering new findings; this experiment was funded for over 30 years. The monkeys were forced to become addicted to a myriad of illegal drugs, including heroin, crack, and crystal methamphetamines, a study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, using science to bear on drug abuse and addiction). First, professors test a recreational street drug, such as heroin, on male primates. The justification was that they already had data on the effects of heroin in female monkeys (as well as the obvious effects on humans). To justify the new experimentation, and therefore, to take more NIH funds, the professors would want data on the effects of heroin on menstruating female monkeys. Researchers will often change the variables slightly (the sex of the animal, the age of the subject, needing data on slightly different cellular targets, etc) in order to justify the extension of the experimentation, with the conclusion that “more research is necessary.” The duplicative “variations on a theme” have been conducted by many schools at the expense of taxpayers, including the University of Minnesota and Emory University. Bellotti notes, when this experiment was first funded, the number one movie was Return of the Jedi of the Star Wars trilogy. These long-term “legacy grants,” are the large financial incentives for colleges to continue animal experimentation. Bellotti considers this “grant mining” and repetitive waste, his definition of governmental waste.
Not only are monkeys forced to take drugs, they are often restrained in a stereotaxic device, one of the “worst things you can do to a frightened animal in the laboratory is to restrain [him or] her.” Sometimes the government’s researchers restrain monkey in chairs to observe the effects of the recreational drugs on the monkey, or to look at the anatomy and physiology of their brains, due to the effects of the street drugs. The monkey can be restrained to do an MRI, or to cut into their brain. These restraint devices are also funded by taxpayers, where each chair can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Solving an Old Problem with New Campaign Models
Bellotti believed the key to solving an old problem (animal experimentation) was approaching it from a new standpoint, as the previous, traditional methods are out of date: the idea that it is cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as the primary funders for animal experimentation; rather, animal experimentation is dominated primarily by increased government spending. “That is the story that needs to be told.”
Bellotti also believes that the mindset within the establishment animal protection movement is still dominated by outdated left vs. right political ideology. “But animal experimentation is not a red issue (Republican) or a blue one (Democrats). It’s a green one (money).” Bellotti gives comparisons: the far right generally does not support government-funded medical care; then why would it support government-funded medical experimentation and research? The far left is associated with supporters of animals’ rights; yet, why would it fund the NIH with cash in order to experiment on animals? Therefore, to the WCW Movement, this issue transcends party labels.
The WCW Movement is not necessarily asking Congress to ban experimentation; rather the movement challenges animal laboratories to solicit their own funding. The WCW Movement is not even necessarily restricting what researchers can do during experimentation; researchers just cannot take taxpayer money when they insist on performing animal experiments.
Bellotti continues with an astute observation, if the experiments done on animals truly yielded results which were life-saving, the researchers would be able to raise their own funds from the private sector, rather than relying on the increased budgets from taxpayers. If a cure for a disease was discovered, derived from animal experimentation, it would be profitable, as there would be private investors; yet questionable experimentation on animals is primarily funded by the government (with its share of the marketplace growing), rather than enterprising private donors.
Although animal experimentation is antiquated, especially with new technology (organs-on- chips), the experimenters are addicted to spending taxpayer dollars. It is lucrative for professors who have secured a grant, particularly a legacy grant, to continue with animal experimentation. As Bellotti observes, these professors have been involved with animal experimentation for decades, perhaps 30 or 40 years; it is what they do, it is what they know. Other businesses, such as in Wall Street or Silicon Valley, fruitful results are expected in a quick manner; otherwise, investments would cease and investors would demand a return in their investment. However, this concept is the opposite with government-funded animal experimentation: with no fruitful results, the researchers are allowed to continue experimentation, with unlimited funds and no accountability, all at the taxpayers’ expense. “Animals are victim number one, with taxpayers right alongside of them,” observes Bellotti.
Bellotti remains hopeful, believing everyone has the power to help end animal testing and wasteful government spending. “We have a real opportunity to change the face of the problem,” by not being afraid of solving the problem in a new way. Everyone can get involved by learning more about the issue, as well as taking action by participating in the political process: contact your representatives and ask them the questions: should taxpayer dollars be spent on animal experimentation? Has animal experimentation yielded cures for human diseases? In addition to being active in the political process, people can help to spread awareness to friends and family, who too, can take action and ask the questions. Bellotti remains optimistic, believing the WCW approach of solving an old problem in a new way, will not only end the cruel practice of animal testing, but also wasteful government spending on that cruelty. “Don’t think we’ll never find a solution, as the best stuff is still ahead.”
To learn more, please visit: Whitecoatwaste.com and their Facebook site.
In late July of 2014, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced the development of their “Organs-on-Chips” technology, a cell culture device, the size of a computer memory stick, which contains hollow channels lined by living cells and tissues which mimic organ-level physiology. The Organs-on-a-Chip are crystal clear, flexible polymers, which contain hollow channels, lined by living cells and tissue which mimic organ-level physiology. These “organs” would produce levels of tissues and organ functionality, while also allowing real-analysis of the biochemical, genetic, and metabolic activities within the individual cells. The technology allows Wyss Institute Founding Director, Don Ingber, M.D., and his team to monitor the molecular-scale activities occurring in human organs, including things occurring in human cells, which do not occur in animals. The chips will have the capability to the specific effects of drugs with a greater accuracy and speed, as these devices work by recreating the tissue interfaces of human organs, where the behaviors of bacteria, drugs, and human white blood cells can be easily monitored through a microscope, as the affects of the drug can be monitored, as well as any adverse side-effects, can be seen in real time.