Op-Ed: The Useless Cruelty of Animal Experimentation

Posted by Amanda Nieves


The Useless Cruelty of Animal Experimentation

Originally published by National Review

Recent revelations about NIH- and NIAID-funded experiments on beagles are a ghastly reminder of the cruel ineffectiveness of such research.

Last week saw Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), come under heavy fire for his agency’s nightmarish puppy experiments. Sparking the debate was a letter sent to Dr. Fauci by Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R., S.C.) and a surprisingly bipartisan array of 23 colleagues demanding information on NIAID’s gruesome tests. The tests included poisoning and “de-barking” beagle puppies. Congressional letters are typically ignored, but this one caught fire, including at National Review.cruelty of animal experimentation

Our taxpayer watchdog organization, White Coat Waste Project (WCW), was the first to reveal details about NIAID’s #BeagleGate scandal, with data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. This isn’t our first rodeo: WCW was also the first to reveal that U.S taxpayers funded coronavirus experiments on bats and other animals at the Wuhan Institute of Virology via National Institutes of Health grants.

Public reaction to Mace’s letter has been swift and fierce. It certainly showed up on Twitter. The weekend before last saw “#ArrestFauci” trending. This spilled into the workweek; Monday afternoon’s top trending hashtag was “#FauciLiedDogsDied.” On Tuesday morning, it was “#DrDogKiller.” Senator Ted Cruz even got in on it, tweeting: “I saw several tweets about this and assumed it was metaphorical. Surely Fauci wasn’t literally ‘torturing puppies.’ My assumption was incorrect.”

Though the senator will surely be dinged by fact-checkers — “Dr. Fauci didn’t do the experiments himself; twelve Pinocchios!” — rampant animal abuse is nothing new at NIAID, or its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health. We’ve documented these taxpayer-funded atrocities for years.

Nevertheless, the “fact-check” battalion has come out in force to defend NIAID’s horrors. In a recent Washington Post column, Dana Milbank claims that “the right-wing disinformation machine” had “erroneously attributed” an experiment in Tunisia to NIAID. Unfortunately for Milbank, the link he chose to “debunk” the claim actually confirms it: Tracking the grant number through the NIH grant database shows that the research was indeed funded by NIAID. Then, in an increasingly shrill rant, Milbank makes the shocking assertion that abusing puppies in experiments, cutting out their vocal cords, and killing them is “necessary . . . mandatory . . . [and] recommended” (emphasis his). Milbank’s piece does not consider alternative testing methodologies; instead, he simply shouts at readers that de-barking and killing beagles is good and necessary, and that we should be “grateful” for it.

Color me unconvinced.

The Post’s full-throated defense of puppy slaughter notwithstanding, what truly allows taxpayer-funded torture to continue, unchecked and unabated, is the institutional inertia of the administrative state — epitomized by the NIH.

Bureaucracy Blues

cruelty of animal experimentation

The National Institutes of Health is a well-practiced example of Washington’s least effective solution: Any outcome demands increased funding. Successful research? Here’s more money; keep it up! Tests failed? Here’s more money; try again!

The pandemic has been great for the NIH’s budget, which has grown from $32 billion in 2018 to over $40 billion in 2020. According to Margaret Synder, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator in the Office of Extramural Research at the NIH, approximately 47 percent of NIH-funded grants go to projects with an animal-experimentation component. Is the NIH’s spendthrift approach effective? Do animal experiments drive new, life-saving discoveries? Is its budget well-spent?

In a word: no.

Dr. Tom Stossel, professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, noted in a 2017 article that many grant-funded scientists are not interested in pursuing medical breakthroughs, or even medical applications of their research. He writes: “Of more than 25,000 publications in prominent biomedical journals, only 100 even mentioned a medically relevant application of the research.” Who does perform the research that generates cures? Unsurprisingly to everyone but dorm-room Marxists, it’s the private sector. “More than 80% of new drug approvals originate from work solely performed in private companies,” Stossel writes, adding that the “private economy, not the government, actually discovers and develops most of the insights and products that advance health.”

Part of this is due to the fact that “drug approvals . . . typically cost $2.5 billion from start to finish,” and NIH grants, though abundant, tend to be small, thus precluding researchers from developing new medicines. “Even if grant-subsidized academics wanted to create a new drug,” he observes, “economic reality prevents it.” Lest this be viewed as an appeal to raise NIH’s budget even further, the long timeline of drug development — a decade, on average — makes such projects extremely poor candidates for yearly reviewed grants. Thus, rather than seeking to develop cures and treatments, grant-funded researchers instead tend to pursue “theory-based science and novelty for novelty’s sake.”

This harsh description is not unwarranted. For example, we recently exposed that Fauci’s NIAID is funding an ongoing study in which over 100 six-month-old beagles are being infested with ticks and then killed to study an illness that is already preventable and treatable.

In another one of the many Fauci-funded experiments we uncovered, beagle puppies had their vocal cords cut out so they couldn’t cry out in the lab, and were repeatedly force-fed an experimental drug to test its toxicity — for the ostensible purpose of an FDA drug submission. Unfortunately for the 44 beagles, the experiment was unnecessary: The FDA states that it doesn’t mandate dog testing for human drugs.

In another Fauci-funded study we uncovered, beagles were bitten by flies to test another drug that had already been “extensively tested and confirmed . . . in different animal models such as mice . . . Mongolian gerbils . . . and rhesus macaques . . . ” — and other dogs.

NIH-funded animal experiments are frequently useless and redundant. The Pentagon’s research-and-development arm, DARPA, has said that “animal models have limited relevance to humans and poorly predict effects in humans.” And yet, as journalist and filmmaker Leighton Woodhouse observes, the “professional insularity” of NIH grantmakers skews them toward approving animal experiments and rejecting alternatives. “When a researcher submits an application for NIH funding, their proposal is reviewed, in the first round, by their peers, almost all of whom are animal testers,” he writes. Quoting scientist and USDA whistleblower Dr. Jim Keen, he adds: “If you don’t use that model, you don’t get funding.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Even within the federal government, it’s usually not. Most other departments and agencies have taken at least some steps to end dog testing. The NIH is a notable outlier.

The Unlikeliest Champion

One of the least-heralded successes of President Trump was his administration’s commitment to end testing on dogs and other animals. During his tenure in office, the VA, EPA, and FDA all made a commitment to phasing it out. We are proud to have sounded the alarm about animal experiments at the VA, with White Coat Waste Project’s maximum-pressure campaign culminating in Congress’s demanding an end to VA tests on dogs, cats, and monkeys by 2025.

cruelty of animal experimentation

This is good news for animal lovers and liberty-lovers alike. Animal experimentation is costly and has a spectacularly high failure rate: over 90 percent, by the NIH’s own admission. New technologies are more accurate, less costly, and involve no wanton puppy death. Of particular relevance is the fact that private-sector research is moving away from animal use while the NIH is doubling down. Drugmakers know that animal testing is unreliable. Funding their own research makes them use more efficient methodologies. The markets work; animals benefit.

If NIH will not course-correct on its own, lawmakers should demand it, just as they demanded the Department of Veterans Affairs cease experimentation on dogs, cats, and primates by 2025.

The Path Forward

Lawmakers would be well-served to use NIH’s reluctant admission that it did indeed fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan — as well as the present moment’s brief spate of anti-Fauci sentiment — to demand reductions in NIH’s profligate spending and gratuitous tests on dogs and other animals. Again, nearly half of NIH’s budget, meaning around $20 billion a year, is spent on animal experiments. Curbing animal testing at NIH would help move the primary locus of research dollars from the government back to the private sector. Conservatives have long resisted socialized medicine. The longstanding policy of NIH has been, in effect, socialized research. It must be rejected.

cruelty of animal experimentation

Ending the NIH’s institutional love affair with animal testing will be met with the usual yowls of displeasure from a vocal minority within the scientific community. This is to be expected. The outcry must be summarily ignored.

As Fauci’s taxpayer-funded animal-testing scandals such as #BeagleGate and the Wuhan lab have made clear, conservatives need to step up scrutiny of animal experiments even more. Bottom line: If you oppose “socialized medicine,” you should oppose NIH’s socialized medical research on animals.

Forcing NIH to end its ghastly dependence on animal experiments will save taxpayer dollars and improve public health.

The beagles will appreciate it, too.

DEVIN MURPHY is Public Policy and Communications Manager at White Coat Waste Project.

Blog Comments

Beagle need to be adopted to families and NOT used for ridiculous experiments.

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