January 31, 2019
Booker Bill: What’s Next?
In response to the Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at the end of the 115th Congress, NABR sent a letter explaining the importance of NHP research to the entirety of Congress accompanied by The Critical Role of Nonhuman Primates in Medical Research and The Lifesaving Benefits of Primate Research. The bill has yet to be reintroduced. NABR’s meetings with the Senator’s staff, as well as engagement with several other scientific societies and NHP researchers, suggest that re-introduction is likely at some point. The Senator’s office appears to continue to be interested in making changes to the bill in order to re-introduce it.
Until then, NABR members should coordinate with their institution’s government affairs staff and continue expressing their concerns to Congress. Pre-emptive education about the importance of animal research in general, and NHP research in this case, is paramount when battling problematic legislation of any kind. Now, at the start of a new congressional session, is the perfect time to start those introductory conversations.
If you have yet to personally communicate with your elected officials, please feel free to utilize NABR’s VoterVoice system. You can reach out to your congressmen using this link: https://www.votervoice.net/NABR/campaigns/62095/respond.
NABR’s Draft Response to NIH RFI on Administrative Burden
In 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act. As a part of the act, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is required to explore areas to reduce regulatory burden on investigators conducting animal research. The NIH solicited comments from the scientific community and provided a Draft Reportof their responses. The comment period for the Draft Report: Reducing Administrative Burden to Researchers for Animal Care and Use in Research will close on February 20. All comments must be submitted electronically submitted to: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/rfi/rfi.cfm?ID=83. NABR’s comments can be found here.
ILAR VA Dog Study
At the end of 2018, NABR called for the research community’s comments regarding the seemingly one-sided provisional committee for the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) Veterans Affairs (VA) Canine Program Review. The submitted comments were reviewed and five additional members were added to the committee. Among these additions are experienced laboratory animal veterinarians Christian Newcomer and Nancy Figler Marks, translational neuroscientist William Potter, vascular surgeon Rodney White, and expert in law and animal ethics Margaret Foster Riley.
The first meeting of the provisional committee, before additions, occurred on December 9, 2018. Speakers from the VA program provided information on the current practices of the program, and the committee had the opportunity to ask questions. The recording of that meeting has now been posted on the study website. At that meeting, the study organizers stated that the next public meeting would be held in January 2019. However, as January ends, we continue to await the announcement of the next meeting.
House and Senate Committee Membership Announced for 116th Congress
New Democratic members of the House Appropriations, Energy & Commerce, and Ways & Means Committees were announced on January 9 as well as full Committee Chairs on January 11. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who was recently selected by Research!America to receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy, was named as the new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was named as Chair of Labor-HHS Subcommittee alongside Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK). Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Leadership was announced on January 9, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) will serve as Chair and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will serve as Ranking Member.
HSLF Highlights their Annual Scorecard for 115th Congress
The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) has released the full version of their Annual Scorecard which graded all members of the 115th Congress. While some of these Members of Congress did not return for the current 116thCongress, it is important for the research community to know how animal rights groups rate legislators. Although this current scorecard does not directly grade any research related bills, these scores may be instructive about the potential willingness of a Member to support legislation having a negative impact on animal research.
White Coat Waste Supporter Arrested by FBI
Filmmaker and activist Roger Stone was arrested on January 25 and charged in Washington federal district court with obstruction, false statements and witness tampering regarding the Mueller investigation. The White Coat Waste Project (WCW) considered Stone a public relations ally, prominently featuring him and one of his January 2018 Daily Caller op-eds on their blog. In Stone’s words, canine research being conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help wounded or sick veterans was a “horror show” and “wasteful and inhumane.” Although the video interview has since been removed from the WCW website, a copy, originally aired on InfoWars, can be viewed on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74pQDt9u6Ew.
PETA Billboard Campaign Targets Primate Research Center
In August 2018, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) began a billboard campaign entitled “If you call it ‘medical research,’ you can get away with murder.” The campaign was designed to specifically target the seven National Primate Research Centers (NPRC). The first billboard went up at Yerkes NPRC, followed by the NPRC at Oregon Health & Science University. The most recent addition to the campaign is a billboard outside of the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) in San Antonio, Texas. In their press release regarding the billboard at SNPRC, PETA refers to The Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act, proposed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the last congressional session (see top story). PETA has used billboards to target other animal uses as well. Their “I’m ME, Not Meat “campaign targets meat eaters.
PETA Continues to Target Institutions using Rodent Swim Test
After targeting a handful of pharmaceutical companies several months ago based on their use of the Porsolt Swim Test, aka the Forced Swim Test (FST), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has expanded their campaign to universities abroad and in the U.S. As is usual, the campaign consists of PETA members mass emailing messages to pharmaceutical executives and high-level university officials. In an effort to clear up misconceptions about the test, NABR’s sister organization, the Foundation for Biomedical Research posted a blog, explaining the basics.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Appeals Dismissal of Horse Lawsuit
Back in September, NABR reported on a court case in Oregon that the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit representing an abused horse. ALDF attempted to represent a horse suing its owner for ongoing medical care, as well as pain and suffering. In September, Oregon’s Judge Knowles refused to hear the case, stating that non-human animals do not have the legal standing to sue on their own behalf. However, not to be deterred, ALDF is now appealing the dismissal. If the appeal is successful, Oregon could be the first state to grant animals the legal right to sue, which would undoubtedly carry significant implications for animal research.
A Refreshing Look at Abuse of Open Records Laws and Political Targeting
A recently law review article, published by UC Berkeley Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental Law Clinic, Claudia Polsky, confronts the use of state open records laws and their use by activists to harass universities and researchers and impede scientific process. In Open Records, Shuttered Labs: Ending Political Harassment of Public University Researchers, Polsky presents an argument that professors “should never have been subject to public records laws”. The article also describes potential legislative reforms to address the issue.
State Mandatory Adoption Bills Introduced in PA, VA, WA, and OR
This month, mandatory research animal adoption legislation was introduced in Pennsylvania, HB 238, and Virginia, HB 2590.
The PA bill was referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and would affect any institution that is “A higher education research facility that receives public money, including tax-exempt status, or a facility that provides research in collaboration with a higher education facility and any other research facility that conducts experiments on dogs or cats for science, testing, education or research purposes.”
While the PA bill does provide civil immunity protection for adopting institutions, it does not give the attending veterinarian control over the process. In fact, the bill states that the following parties are responsible for the adoption process, “A research facility, or employee or student thereof.” Finally, and most peculiarly, the state bill instructs a federal agency to be the primary enforcer of this new legislation, “The Department of Agriculture shall enforce the provisions of this act.” However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no authority to enforce such a provision.
The Virginia bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, where the committee recommended “laying on the table.” The motion postpones consideration and decision of the legislation, though it does not eliminate the bill completely by voting it down.
Additional mandatory adoption bills have been filed in Washington and Oregon. The Washington bill, SB 5212, is set for a public hearing on February 5 in the Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development. The Oregon bill, SB 638, is perhaps more concerning as it does not cover only dogs and cats, but all laboratory animals as defined by Oregon code ORS 609.415 defined as “any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish.” Further, this bill would create an onerous reporting process at the state level, the records of which would equate to a ready-made targeting list for animal rights groups.
The expansion of the mandatory adoption bills to other species has been an issue NABR has been concerned about since these bills first were pushed by the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), now known as the Rescue + Freedom Project (R+FP).
Swiss Canton to Vote on Basic Rights for Primates while Regulatory Burden Becomes an Issue
The Swiss canton (state-like entity) of Basel-Stadt will soon be voting on a referendum aimed at giving rights to non-human primates. The cantonal government had originally declared the planned ballot initiative invalid, but cantonal appeals court overturned the decision. The goal of the initiative is to guarantee non-human primates “right to life.” However, the cantonal government does not have the authority to impose stricter animal protection measures on private organizations, such as pharmaceutical companies or zoos. This means, that if the referendum were to pass, it would only apply to public entities, like hospitals and universities.
The University of Basel, the large university in the canton, has not yet conducted non-human primate research. However, this referendum, if passed, would remove their ability to do so in the future.
Swiss researchers have expressed their frustration with recent science regulatory changes in Switzerland according to The Scientist. These regulations, which consist of changes to the already rigorous licensing procedures for animal experiment approval, have slowed research, in some cases to a near stop. Developmental geneticist at the University of Basel and president of the Basel Declaration Society, Rolf Zeller, stated that the current regulatory environment seems to treat new proposals as a higher priority than renewing recurring protocols.