May 22, 2018

House Freedom Caucus Revolts Over Immigration, Spending; Torpedoes Farm Bill Vote

On Friday afternoon, the House rejected H.R.2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, by a vote of 198 to 213. The vote was initially predicted to be a party-line vote leading to passage. In a last-minute development, 30 Republicans, the majority of which belong to the Freedom Caucus, joined with their Democrat colleagues in voting against the bill after not being granted concessions on the issues of spending and the promise of a vote on immigration reform.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told reporters that they will be moving forward with another Farm Bill vote on June 22. One of the most contentious negotiations over the bill was the subject of the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP). SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, made up a large portion of the Farm Bill. According to House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC), “76 percent of this farm bill has nothing to do with farms.” The bill failed because some Republicans found spending to be too exorbitant while Democrats opposed stricter work requirements for SNAP benefit recipients.

Because the Farm Bill is the primary legislative vehicle dealing with agriculture and other affairs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), animal research has a stake in H.R. 2. As NABR previously reported, Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill to provide regulatory relief to the biomedical research community. His amendment would change the required USDA annual inspection from at least once per year to at least once every three years, moving USDA closer to a risk-based assessment for oversight. Risk-based enforcement is currently practiced for all other regulated entities under the Act. Contrary to claims from the animal rights community, Rep. Rouzer’s amendment would not end inspections, as it maintains a provision allowing the Secretary to inspect facilities at any time deemed necessary.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are working to craft a bipartisan version of the Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill authorizations expire at the end of FY2018 so Congress must complete its work by September 30, 2018.

DxE Activists Charged with Multiple Felonies

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) has been in the news lately for their self-publicized break-ins and thefts of animals in what they deem “rescues.” As NABR previously reported, DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung and five other activists are facing felony charges in Sanpete County, UT for theft from a turkey farm in January of 2017. It is also being reported that five DxE activists, including Hsiung, are facing new felony charges in Beaver County, UT for the July 2017 theft of pigs from Circle Four Farms, owned by Smithfield Farms. All five activists are being charged with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, two counts of burglary committed against an animal enterprise, and theft of livestock. It was DxE’s own video, profiled by the New York Times, that is now serving as evidence in the theft.

The group brazenly claims to have engaged in several such thefts documented here:  DxE is using these thefts to push for what they call “Julie’s Law” at the municipal level, a proposal aimed at giving animals legal standing in local courts by granting rights currently reserved for humans.

DxE supports amending the U.S. Constitution to ban all animal research and animal agriculture. Hsiung expressly wrote of the hypothetical future he envisions: “The year is 2060. Four years ago, a constitutional amendment was passed enshrining animal rights in the US Constitution. And today, we are shutting down the last slaughterhouse on Earth.” DxE provides more detail in “The Roadmap to Animal Liberation.”

WCWP, NEAVS Hold Joint Hill Briefing; Release Anti-NTP Report

On May 16, WCWP (White Coat Waste Project) and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) held a joint briefing for Capitol Hill staff in Washington, D.C. At the briefing WCWP and NEAVS released a new report attacking animal research at the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The report is titled, “Toxic Testing: Wasteful Animal Tests in the National Toxicology Program.” The report is critical of the $186,000,000 in federal funding for animal studies for chemical assessments by the NTP and criticizes the NTP for its lack of non-animal-based testing, stating only 0.97% of future tests plan to use non-animal methods. The group never questions why animal research is necessary over non-animal methods. The report goes on to state that NTP is lacking transparency and accountability in animal research.

Recommendations, quoted directly from the report, include:

  1. Pass the bipartisan Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act (HR 816) to improve progress reporting by NTP and other agencies about efforts to reduce and replace animal use in toxicity testing
  2. Redirect funds from NTP’s wasteful animal tests to the development and use of superior alternatives
  3. Halt planned NTP animal testing and commission an independent audit to identify opportunities to avoid wasteful animal use
  4. Require that all NTP reports clearly indicate how much taxpayer money was spent and how many animals were used
  5. Restrict funding available for animal testing at NTP and other agencies

Both organizations appear to use animal rights and fiscal responsibility rhetoric together to push an anti-research agenda. The aforementioned FACT Act currently has 68 cosponsors and was introduced in the House in February of last year. It has seen no action by the House Energy & Commerce Committee to which the bill was referred for consideration. You can read more about NABR’s previous write-up on the FACT Act by clicking here.

NIH Working Group Says Chimpanzees Should Not Go to Sanctuary if Their Health Could Be Endangered

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Working Group on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees released their report on Friday in which they conclude, “Chimpanzees should be relocated to the federal sanctuary system unless relocation would place the chimpanzee's life, safety, and welfare at extreme risk.” The federal sanctuary system referenced in this report is Chimp Haven in Keithville, LA. NABR has long argued that chimpanzees should not be relocated if their health, safety, or welfare were put at risk by the move. The report goes on to state if there is a disagreement between a research facility and sanctuary, an “independent expert veterinary opinion should be sought to inform the relocation decision.” However, the report included no details about who the independent third party should be nor how impartiality would be determined.

The working group report comes in the wake of revelations that moving elderly or ailing chimpanzees from research facilities to sanctuaries had been adversely affecting their health, and in several cases the move was fatal. Researchers have noted many chimpanzees suffered or died needlessly as a result of transfers to Chimp Haven, as detailed by Speaking of Research. In fact, Wired profiled 13 chimpanzees who were moved to the facility in 2014-2015; within 15 months, nine of the chimps had died.

As of March 2018, 232 of the 504 chimpanzees owned by NIH have been moved to the federal sanctuary. Of the remaining chimpanzees that have not been moved, 177 have health issues that would be negatively impacted by relocation. NIH plans to open a 60-day public comment period before NIH Director Francis Collins decides on further chimpanzee relocation. Director Collins ordered an end to NIH funding of chimpanzee research in November 2015.

Washington Post Covers USDA Intent to Give Notice for Some Future AWA Inspections

As NABR previously reported, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) stated in an April 11, 2018 letter that it is considering announcing some of their AWA inspections. Prior to the April 11 letter, such inspections were routinely unannounced. APHIS stated in their letter the agency had no plans to eliminate unannounced inspections but planned to run a pilot project blending both announced and unannounced inspections at select facilities.

The Washington Post picked up on this story on May 17. APHIS has confirmed the authenticity of the letter but declined further comment. The Washington Post goes on to express the concerns of animal rights activists regarding third-party inspections, risk-based inspections, and the removal of USDA inspection records from the agency’s website. APHIS Deputy Administrator Bernadette Juarez has stated third-party inspections would not replace government inspections but they would assist with a risk-based approach noting, “We may be able to kick out the frequency with which we visit those facilities so that we can conserve our resources and make more frequent visits to facilities that we know have compliance challenges.” The story was also covered by The Scientist on Friday.

Michigan Bill Seeks to Outlaw Ownership of NHPs

On May 17, lawmakers in Lansing introduced House Bill 6032, which prohibits the ownership or possession of nonhuman primates (NHP). It has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee. No hearing has been scheduled. The bill contains an exemption for institutions that are AAALAC accredited and another for “a person or organization that holds a valid license issued by the United States Department of Agriculture for engaging in an activity involving a nonhuman primate while the person or organization is engaged in the permitted activity.” That language could be improved significantly by specifically exempting research and by clarifying exempted entities as “registered research facilities,” rather than licensees.  NABR will be working with members in Michigan to strengthen that exemption.

Thanks to Animal Research, Experimental Cancer Treatment Cures Dog

While animal rights groups have squarely targeted the use of canines in research, a May 16 article in the Boston Globe serves as a reminder of similarities between dogs and humans. Man’s best friend shares the same environment as their human counterparts and therefore suffers many of the same ailments and health challenges. That connection could be the key to unlocking treatments and cures for both species. Consider the story of Drambuie, a golden retriever who was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor which attacks soft tissues. Drambuie’s prognosis was not good, so his owner enrolled him in a clinical trial for a new sarcoma treatmentat Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinary oncologist, has been testing a new form of immunotherapy, injecting a piece of DNA that allows the dog’s own immune system to destroy the sarcoma. About one month after the injection, a surgery was scheduled to remove the shrunken tumor from Drambuie, yet none could be found. The immunotherapy had eliminated the tumor. These types of clinical trials in canines are helping researchers develop the next generation of cancer treatments for humans, proving yet again animal research advances medicine for our furry companions, as well as us.

FASEB Releases New FY 2017 Funding Factsheet

Earlier this month the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) released a new advocacy resource for researchers and research advocates. Their FY 2017 Funding Factsheet presents data for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., U.S. territories, and 400 Congressional Districts. This factsheet is an excellent tool to help scientists communicate the importance of federal funding in biomedical research. FASEB has redesigned the factsheet with a new infographic-style to make the information easier to digest for lawmakers and the general public. We encourage you to review and use this information when discussing your work with federal and state lawmakers.

Several Representatives Oppose Canine Research During House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Member Day

On May 16 the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a Member Day in which any member of the House is invited to give testimony on veterans’ issues. During opportunity, three Representatives spoke in opposition to canine research at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) while voicing support for H.R. 3197, otherwise known as the PUPPERS Act. Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV), supporters of White Coat Waste Project initiatives, voiced their opposition to VA’s research with dogs. You can view their testimony here. The PUPPERS Act has been in the House Veterans Affairs Committee since last summer where it has received no action. NABR and more than 40 organizations in science and medicine weighed-in against the bill last fall.

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