UPDATE (8/3/23): VICTORY! A federal judge rejected the NIH’s attempt to have our lawsuit dismissed, and the case will proceed!
UPDATE (3/30/23): A new U.S. Government Accountability Office report cites WCW’s lawsuit and confirms the existence of the foreign animal lab loophole.
Original Post (January 4, 2022)
Re: We’ll see you in court!
With 2021 behind us, we’re eager to hit the ground running in 2022, and get started on our New Year’s resolutions. On the top of that list: we resolve to keep fighting the War on Waste…because taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay $20 billion for wasteful government animal experiments.
While other groups were still recovering from New Year’s festivities, WCW decided to ring in 2022 by suing the National Institutes of Health for illegally exempting foreign animal labs from oversight that protects animals and taxpayers.
Although the law is sometimes murky, and often frustrating, at least one part of the law governing animal experimentation is clear. Federal law states that any lab that conducts experiments on animals using American taxpayer funds via the NIH must have an animal care committee.
These oversight committees — while far from perfect — are charged with reviewing, approving, or withholding approval for proposed animal experiments. They inspect animal laboratories, address concerns about animal welfare and lab safety, and report deficiencies. They ensure that animal experiments are not duplicative, that non-animal test methods are considered, and they have the power to suspend non-compliant animal experiments.
Sounds pretty important for preventing wasteful spending on animal experiments, right? That’s why WCW investigators were alarmed to discover how NIH illegally exempts foreign white coats from oversight.
We call this the Foreign Animal Lab Loophole.
Can the NIH do that? Can an agency create rules that directly contradict longstanding federal law?
No, it can’t. That’s why we’re suing.
Our lawsuit was filed on our behalf by the non-profit Advancing Law for Animals.
In addition to allowing taxpayer-funded foreign labs to horrifically abuse animals and leak dangerous pathogens and not even report it, the illegal loophole also gives foreign animal experimenters a competitive advantage because they don’t have to bear the costs of compliance that US labs are required to. It also means that taxpayer-funded animal experiments that would not get approved in the US could more easily be conducted overseas.
Outsourcing is bad for American experimenters — but we’re not shedding too many tears for taxpayer-funded white coats. We’re concerned because the Foreign Animal Lab Loophole is VERY bad for animals and taxpayers.
As we exposed last year with our Worldwide Waste investigation, 353 labs in 57 countries are eligible to receive American tax dollars for animal experiments. Many foreign countries, like Tunisia, have no lab animal protection laws at all. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. And because of the NIH’s Foreign Animal Lab Loophole, animals in some foreign labs (funded by US taxpayers) may have no protections at all.
A recent poll of a thousand taxpayers, conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, found that a supermajority of Republicans AND Democrats believe taxpayer-funded foreign animal labs should be required to adhere to US standards.
This isn’t the first animal issue with wide, bipartisan agreement. In fact, most WCW issues transcend political ideology.
If you’re one of the many people who made a resolution to be more active in the New Year, why not start right now?