Category E: The Darkest Corner of Animal Experimentation

Ed Butler, October 9, 2018

If you need to tell the government every year how much pain you’re causing others, you may be in the wrong line of work.

Putting animals in pain to get published is a core business practice for animal experimenters. Since 1970, USDA has made experimenters fill out a form annually (see pic of form)  in which they have to estimate how much pain they’re causing, and if pain relief is being used.

It doesn’t matter whether the experimenter is a government employee, a researcher at a university, or someone working at a corporation – they all have to fill out the same form documenting the level of pain they’ve caused to animals.

To spare you from having to read the Animal Welfare Act, here are the USDA pain categories in plain English:

Category means “these are animals we’re housing but not using.”

  • Usually being bred in captivity but they’re not being used in any experiments. Basically they’re in a holding cell, sometimes for their entire lives.

Category means “we’re experimenting on them, but we don’t think they’re in pain.”

  • An animal could be trapped for their entire life, in total isolation, suffering extreme psychological distress, and still get this “no pain” label.
  • Primates have suffered so badly from lab confinement they’ve ripped the hair off of their entire body, rocking constantly in a mentally deranged state from isolation, and it’s still considered “no pain.”

Category means “we’re experimenting on them, and they’re in pain, but we’re managing the pain to some degree.”

  • The catch: There’s no requirement that medication address 100% of the pain. As such, animals only getting partial pain relief are counted here.
  • A monkey could be given extreme pain (like 3rd degree burns on 50% of their body) but just barely enough pain relief to prevent a heart attack. That would get counted as Category D, even though the animal is obviously still in enormous pain and distress.

Category is the ugliest. It means “We’re experimenting on these animals, and they’re in a lot of pain, which we’re not helping.”

  • Any experimenter checking this box is essentially stating: “I’m intentionally causing extreme pain in these animals, but I am withholding pain relief purposely for the purposes of my experiments.” This is still legal in 2018!
  • According to USDA data, in 2016 there were 71,370 animals suffering in Category E experiments. That’s not even counting mice, rats, and birds, incidentally, as the Animal Welfare Act still doesn’t recognize those as animals deserving of protection.

Good news

Earlier this year, the state of Virginia passed a law prohibiting tax money from being used for Category E experiments on dogs and cats because of how horrible these tests are.

We are fighting for a day in which all of these pain categories are terrible things of the past.

You can help put an end to horrendous acts of cruelty like Category E pain tests by making a gift today.