Give Them Back: A Second Chance for Lab Animals, a WCW Op-ed

Posted by Amanda Nieves
25 March 2022 | #GiveThemBack, Blog

Give Them Back: A Second Chance for Lab Animals
A White Coat Waste Project Op-ed, originally published in M. Citizen Magazine, Issue 7 | Spring 2022

Getting through the pandemic was challenging — but the unconditional love of an animal made it a little easier. Shelters were cleared nationwide as millions of Americans adopted pandemic pets; soft purrs and wagging tails served as emotional life preservers during COVID-19’s darkest days. Even animals who had been in shelters for months found homes. It was heartwarming to see, because no animal should die alone and unloved.

Sadly, thousands of animals have no other choice. They are the forgotten ones, never appearing in shelters, or on adoption websites. They will never know the warmth of a hug, or the feeling of grass beneath their feet, and most will never be adopted — not because they’ve unlovable or bad, but because of bureaucracy. These are the animals that kindness forgot, born to suffer and bred to die: lab animals.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Our organization, White Coat Waste Project (WCW), is dedicated to exposing and ending $20 billion in wasteful government spending on animal experiments and getting as many dogs, cats, bunnies, and other animals out of government labs as possible. When the money stops, the killing stops.

The U.S. government — not big cosmetic companies or big pharmaceutical companies — is the single largest funder of animal experiments in the world. The number of federal agencies that conduct and fund animal testing is surprisingly large. It’s not just the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration that test on animals; the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice do too. So do the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control. Even NASA.

Disturbingly, virtually all of the animals who survive government experiments are killed, even when they are healthy enough to live happy lives in loving homes or sanctuaries. Most federal agencies don’t allow taxpayers to adopt these survivors — even though we bankroll their experiments. So, several years ago, WCW launched the first national campaign to make retirement a requirement. Taxpayers bought these survivors; Uncle Sam should give them back!

To date, our ‘Give Them Back’ efforts have retired survivors across the entire federal government — from dogs at the VA, to rabbits at the EPA, guinea pigs at the NIH, and many more.

Give Them Back

Baby Squirrel Monkey photographed in the FDA’s nicotine addiction experiments


Case in point: the FDA’s nicotine addiction experiments on baby monkeys. A huge body of research has already proved that nicotine is addictive and smoking is harmful. No one believes otherwise. So why were government white coats at the FDA spending $5.5 million in taxpayer money to addict baby primates to nicotine…in 2018? That seemed to us to be a flagrant misuse of taxpayer funds. Working alongside famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, we rallied support from Congress and the general public, and hammered FDA’s wasteful spending in the press. Soon enough, the FDA relented. They ended their nicotine experiments, and agreed, for the first time in agency history, to retire the remaining squirrel monkeys to a sanctuary, where they could live out the rest of their lives in peace.

A similar scenario played out at the USDA, which for decades had run the government’s largest cat lab. The experiments taking place at USDA’s $22 million “Kitten Slaughterhouse” were heartbreaking and disgusting — including buying cat and dog meat from foreign ‘wet markets,’ then feeding the meat to kittens in the lab. After exposing these gruesome ‘kitten cannibalism’ experiments, WCW rallied an army of taxpayers and Members of Congress in both parties, and successfully pressured the USDA to end the experiments. Yet the USDA found itself in a predicament: what should be done with the survivors?

Give Them Back

Petite, on the ride home, the day we rescued her from USDA’s Kitten Slaughterhouse


Previously, USDA white coats would simply kill them once the experiments concluded — even healthy kittens, who had not undergone any experiments. But with public scrutiny at an all-time high, that ‘solution’ was untenable. Instead of killing the cats, USDA decided to make them available for adoption. Unfortunately, they had no adoption policy in place, so they sold the survivors for $1 each (check or money order only please, no cash), listing them as “excess property,” along with file cabinets, chairs, and desks. The government can and should do better.

Our ‘Give Them Back’ campaign is personal to WCW: our founder and president now lives with two cats, Petite and Delilah, who survived the USDA lab. Similarly, a WCW board member adopted her dog Violet from a different taxpayer-funded lab. When Violet arrived at her forever home, she was terrified. She didn’t know what grass was; she had never felt the breeze, or seen the sun. Stairs were utterly baffling to her. Yet despite Violet’s steep learning curve, she is happy now. As any pet parent knows, animals are remarkably resilient, capable of overcoming tremendous adversity while staying full of love, joy, and happiness.

Violet has inspired our one of biggest legislative pushes to date. Although we have had great success at pressuring individual agencies into creating retirement policies for animals in their care, a government-wide policy is long overdue. Violet’s Law, formally known as the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research Act — the

AFTER Act for short — would require each federal agency to develop lab animal retirement policies. It is supported by broad bipartisan coalitions in the House and in the Senate, as well as a supermajority of Americans from across the political spectrum.

We brought Petite and Delilah, two of the cats rescued from USDA’s kitten lab, to Capitol Hill, where they got to meet the lawmakers who helped shut down their horrifyingly cruel experiments. “I’m so glad you’re free,” whispered Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, as Delilah purred contentedly.

We are, too.

Give Them Back

Delilah with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)


Devin Murphy is Public Policy and Communications Manager at White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit focused on ending taxpayer-funded animal experiments with over three million members nationwide.

Blog Comments

Stop testen an armen hilflosen Tieren … Alternativen human … brutal und grauenvoll


I am shocked and angry to learn that OUR OWN GOVERNMENT is involved in Lab experiments and abuse and killing, Why are not these issues on the news??

As I said before, I am shocked and angry that these animal testing labs are in our own country; AND IN WASHINGTON!! IT MUST BE MADE PUBLIC, AS IN THE NEWS! nO ONE THAT i KNOW HAD ANY IDEA THAT THESE LABS WERE RECEIVING TAX PAYER MONEY.

investigação é criminosa, os animais são seres que sofrem como nós.

Not giving these pets a 2nd choice is so wrong even though lab testing is violently wrong enough as it is therefore these precious pets should definitely be given a second chance!!

Why we allow so-called “researchers” to cage, abuse, torture or kill animals is vile and despicable.

I’ve always believed — and practiced on several occasions in my youth and in college — of beating-the-sxit out of jerks who thought animal abuse was acceptable!

It never was, and never is!


It is really unbelievable that anyone thinks it is acceptable to torture animals in this way, and then to kill them for no reason. This is disgusting and I do not want my tax dollars used in this way! Animal torture must stop! And these poor animals MUST be put up for adoption.

It’s so hard to think that this torture is still happening when these idiots know that 99.99% that these experiments do not work. Stop wasting our money on this torture of animals. Beagles are so sweet and do not deserve this. Stop now and give all the animals a chance at a good life in a sanctuary or a loving home!

As an animal rights activist, it is appalling to know that my tax dollars support psychopathy where the VICTIMS ARE DEFENSELESS, INNOCENT ANIMALS! But the psychopaths aren’t the worst of the problem! The psychopaths are free to do what they do because it’s LEGAL!!

I believe there is a special place in he’ll for animal abusers, I have asked God to show me it and He has, I can confirm it is there, keep praying the blood of Jesus for the suffering animals. Keep praying for God to stop this evil!

Stop test on all animals!!

What gives these people the right to experiment on animals? Reverse the picture; if human beens were the subject of the experiments, would you like being a subject of these experiments? Value animals live, they should not suffer. They have the right to enjoy life and be loved, let them live.

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