PETA files complaint over treatment of mice

BAR HARBOR — A national animal rights group filed a complaint this month alleging that animal care technicians at The Jackson Laboratory neglected and abused the mice used in research there.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed the complaint with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) March 2. Much of The Jackson Laboratory’s research funding comes through National Institutes of Health grants.

In a written response, lab officials denied any mistreatment and said the institution meets or exceeds standards for humane treatment of the mice.

The allegations of animal mistreatment come from a former employee whom PETA indicated would remain anonymous. The complaint names several animal care employees and supervisors working in Bar Harbor, in a narrative claiming that animal welfare issues are “swept under the rug.”

One concern was that some employees allegedly use their fingers or fingernails, rather than scissors or a scalpel, to take small amounts of tissue (5 mm) from the tip of a mouse’s tail for genotyping.

The Jackson Laboratory’s internal Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee “is required to investigate all concerns involving the welfare of laboratory mice,” says the lab statement.

Many avenues are available for employees to anonymously or confidentially report concerns about animal welfare, including an anonymous telephone line, according to the statement.

“JAX not only meets and exceeds published standards for treatment of mice in research such as those outlined in the Public Health Service (PHS) “Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals” but also conducts research about animal care that sets the foundation for these standards,” the statement says.

While the complaint letter addressed to the NIH by PETA veterinarian Ingrid Taylor alleges technical violations of research standards, public statements from PETA about the issue focus on the group’s belief that animal research is unethical and ineffective.

“Touting studies with these animals as useful to finding cures amounts to fraud,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. She claimed that “the studies with these animals have largely failed.”

Research with mice at The Jackson Laboratory has contributed to scientific understanding of disease for nearly a century. Mouse models have been part of the research process for drugs and therapies including a recently approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, a leading genetic cause of death in infants and children. The lab also ships more than 2.5 million mice annually to cancer, heart disease and diabetes researchers around the world.

The mouse complaint is not the first that the group has leveled at a Maine institution. In 2013, a PETA investigator took video while working undercover at Linda Bean Maine Lobster’s processing plant in Rockland. PETA used the video to claim the lobsters were treated cruelly. The Knox County District Attorney declined to press animal cruelty charges.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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