Animal experimentation is always nasty, but a whistleblower recently brought to light some particularly cruel goings-on at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the unnamed insider contacted PETA “to report that dogs, monkeys, sheep, goats, ferrets, and mice are being used in cruel experiments in which their bodies are burned, mutilated, and cut open.” In addition, the insider says the animals suffer from inadequate veterinary care, improperly trained staff, careless handling, and severe neglect.

The purposeful burning of animals at the UTMB lab is especially disturbing. “We learned for, example, that in the burn experiments involving sheep, before the sheep are burned, they’re kept in tiny enclosures and chained at the neck,” said Kathy Guillermo, vice president of PETA’s laboratory investigation division. “Then after they’re burned on 40 percent of their bodies and suffer smoke inhalation, they’re still kept chained in small enclosures. It’s very unusual for an animal to be kept alive so long after a burn experiment. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly painful to be burned over 40 percent of your body.”

One of the individuals specifically named by the insider has a long history of torturing animals in the name of “science.” Daniel Traber has been searing the skin of animals for decades. He has conducted research in which he torched mice with a Bunsen burner until more than 40 percent of their bodies was charred. In another experiment, Traber heated an aluminum bar to nearly 400 degrees with a Bunsen burner and roasted the skin of live pigs on it for 30 seconds, creating a series of deep burns that covered 15 percent of their bodies.

UTMB’s response to all this? They issued the usual kind of cookie-cutter statement that vivisectionists always issue when faced with public scrutiny, yammering on about being “a leading research institution committed to advancing the treatment and prevention of illness and injury” while striving “to adhere to the highest ethical standards and to follow all federal, state and campus regulations in every aspect of its research enterprise.”

It’s research, it’s not necessarily illegal, therefore, it’s okay. Yawn … how many times have I heard that before?

In response to the PETA allegations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does plan to send an inspector to the UTMB, supposedly in the near future. “We always take complaints seriously,” said David Sacks, spokesman for the USDA. “Whether it’s from an individual or another group, we will send an inspector to look into the allegation of that complaint.” I’m glad to hear that, even though my faith in the USDA is severely lacking.

Sadly, the federal government isn’t much of a help when it comes to helping laboratory animals. If it wasn’t for a brave whistleblower coming forward, would the USDA even be paying attention to what’s happening at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston? If it wasn’t for groups like PETA, would any action be taken at all?

There’s no reason to simply sit back and wait for the USDA to maybe, possibly do something to help the animals at UTMB. PETA has launched a petition urging UTMB President David L. Callender to immediately conduct a thorough investigation of the university’s laboratories and dismiss any employees whose incompetence, negligence, or outright cruelty are found to have contributed to increased pain and misery for animals.

Do your part and take the time to speak up for Texas lab animals.

Photo Credit: Maqi

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