A White Coat Waste Project (WCW) investigation has uncovered how President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reversed the agency’s historic and widely-supported plan to phase out all testing on mammals by 2035 and is killing rabbits it was supposed to retire.
As first reported by the Washington Times, according to documents obtained by WCW via the Freedom of Information Act and other sources, the EPA has killed its plan to completely end its wasteful animal tests and “stripped out” the benchmarks set by former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in 2019 to reduce the agency’s animal testing by 30% by 2025 and completely by 2035.
Internal EPA emails released to WCW via FOIA also show that the EPA has also ditched a 2021 plan prompted by WCW to retire healthy rabbits in the agency’s lab and is now senselessly killing them.
This about-face undoes years of work by WCW and Congress to end the EPA’s wasteful spending and spare the animal testing survivors.
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Here’s how it happened:
In 2018, WCW first uncovered that the EPA was abusing 20,000 rabbits, mice, and other victims each year in wasteful, cruel, expensive experiments at its in-house labs.
We exposed how the EPA wasted millions of tax dollars to force animals to breathe diesel exhaust and smog, force-feed animals lard and expose them to air pollution, blast animals with loud noises, and stress pregnant animals with light and noise and electroshock their babies.
For years, the EPA has admitted that these kinds of chemical tests on animals are irrelevant to humans and “expensive, time-consuming, and can cause stress to laboratory animals” and that alternative tests have “inherent advantages.”
We rallied support from bipartisan lawmakers from the Freedom Caucus to the Progressive Caucus including Congressmembers like Ken Calvert (R-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Scott Perry (R-PA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Dave Joyce (R-OH), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Brendan Boyle (D-PA).
In emails obtained by WCW, EPA white coats and bureaucrats expressed worry about our campaigns and work with bipartisan lawmakers to increase oversight and crack down on wasteful animal tests. The agency even admitted delaying its response to WCW’s FOIA requests because the documents would make them look bad, an apparent egregious violation of federal open records law.
Then, in 2019, there was a breakthrough. Andrew Wheeler, a longtime animal testing critic, was appointed as the head of the EPA. One of his first orders of business was announcing the most comprehensive plan in U.S. government history to completely end all testing on mammals by 2035. We were proud to join Administrator Wheeler at the dais when he rolled out the landmark plan to much fanfare. We even presented Wheeler with our inaugural Policy Pioneer Award in 2020.
After the announcement, we uncovered a still-ongoing EPA experiment that entails using rabbits as sperm donors and then heartlessly killing them.
The bunnies are locked in a cage with a female “teaser” rabbit, and when the male mounts the female, the EPA white coats introduce a lubricated “artificial vagina” filled with warm water to collect the rabbits’ sperm, which was used “for cell culture testing of environmental chemicals.”
Some of these rabbits were imprisoned at the EPA for over a decade, and, even though they were completely healthy, they were to be killed “when ejaculate quality or antibody production declines,” according to documents we obtained through FOIA.
Upon learning about this wasteful cruelty, Andrew Wheeler, in one of his very last acts as EPA chief, mercifully directed the agency to begin retiring the rabbits still remaining in EPA labs to loving homes or sanctuaries.
Unfortunately, within days of the Joe Biden being inaugurated, the EPA was already rolling back Wheeler’s efforts.
Five days after Wheeler’s departure and rabbit retirement directive, we reached out to the EPA with an offer to facilitate the retirement of the bunnies to the Kindness Ranch sanctuary, including covering all costs and transportation. Suddenly, the EPA refused the offer.
Emails we subsequently obtained from the EPA via FOIA show that after Andrew Wheeler left office, Wayne Cascio, the heartless white coat who heads the EPA’s animal lab, refused to retire the bunnies and told his staff that the rabbits will never leave the EPA’s lab.
At the same time, in February 2021, Joe Biden’s nominee for Wheeler’s replacement, Michael Regan, promised Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would “remain strongly committed” to reducing and replacing animal testing. That was apparently a lie.
Documents we’ve obtained via FOIA show that within a few months, Regan’s team rolled back the EPA’s plan to end animal testing.
By December 2021, Regan’s EPA stated in emails we obtained that it completely “stripped out” all of the deadlines for phasing out animal testing that Andrew Wheeler had put into place.
In response to an internal email being circulated about WCWs efforts with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jeanne Shaheen (R-NH) to pass Violet’s Law to retire lab animals, EPA reiterated that the rabbits would stay there and that, “They are loved and cared for by the staff that have cared for them for years. Their living accommodations are excellent…Veterinary care is provided weekly and the state-of-health is reported”
However, records obtained by WCW via FOIA this year show that rabbits at the EPA are still being experimented on, denied adequate veterinary care, and needlessly killed instead of being retired.
In one case, the lead experimenter on the rabbit study refused to allow one aging rabbit named Jasper to be placed in more safe and comfortable housing when he developed difficulty standing on the wire cage floor, and it became dangerous for him.
Instead of giving him better housing, Jasper was killed in January 2023.
In another case, a rabbit named Leo (born on the same day as Jasper and possibly his sibling) was killed in December 2021 because his condition was “not manageable in this laboratory animal setting.”
The EPA recently renewed this wasteful rabbit sperm donor experiment for another three years, and there are three rabbits currently imprisoned in the lab named Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Johnny Ringo.
The new application states that these rabbits will be killed, not retired, at the end of the sperm donor experiment.
The EPA’s animal testing about-face appears to be kowtowing to entrenched white coats and special interests. Over three dozen environmental and social justice groups—including the National Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the Center for Biological Diversity—are demanding that the Biden EPA completely reverse Andrew Wheeler’s 2035 phase-out and end all plans to reduce animal tests and to do more wasteful and cruel animal testing under the guise of “environmental justice.”
Biden’s EPA is complying. WCW has uncovered that EPA white coats recently wasted tax money on heinous tests like these:
First, the Department of Veterans Affairs approved a plan to restart cat testing, now the EPA. The Biden Administration is betraying animals, taxpayers, and Congress!
Is this how you want your money spent?
Tell the EPA to reinstate its rabbit retirement policy and Andrew Wheeler’s plan to eliminate all testing on mammals by 2035.
Watch the full video featuring the Hon. Andrew Wheeler