EXPOSED: Dozens of labs are freezing animals alive

Amy Meyer, July 30, 2019

There is a haunting trend in labs: being frozen alive due to negligence.

According to documents obtained by NEAVS, dozens of experimenters over the last couple years failed to verify whether animals were dead after suffocating them with gas, and placed those animals’ live bodies in the dead animal freezer. Lab staff open the freezer to see live mice, usually babies, in “distress” inside body bags. Often they are too late, and the animals who desperately tried to escape by chewing through the body bag already froze to death by the time the next person opened the freezer.

The frequency of this problem is so high that we already have two examples of this happening on the same day in separate labs on different sides of the country.

Examples: Left for Dead in a Freezer

  • University of South California: USC sent live baby mice to the freezer on four separate occasions within just a 6 month period. This recklessness involved at least 38 animals.

  • Emory University: An experimenter at Emory University gassed a rat with carbon dioxide, then broke her neck and left her for dead in a freezer. The rat survived all three of these painful abuses.

  • Temple University: 10 baby mice were found alive in a freezer on July 28. Five more instances just like this occurred between August 26 – September 2.

  • University of Florida: A rat used in an invasive stroke study at the University of Florida survived an attempted euthanasia, and even managed to chew her way out of a body bag inside the freezer. She eventually froze to death.

  • New York University: On April 26, 2018, 7 rodents were frozen to death, some of whom had managed to chew their way out of the carcass bag but could not escape the sealed freezer.

These abuses are inexcusable. But instead of penalizing labs for this cruelty, the NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) issues this same finding nearly every time:

“We appreciate being informed of this matter and find no cause for further action by this office.”

Laboratories often suffocate animals with gas as a form of euthanasia, but are typically required to use a second method afterward for rodents, often cutting off their heads or breaking their necks. Rodents are particularly resistant to inhaled gas like carbon dioxide, so gassing alone usually does not kill them. Document after document reviewed by NEAVS tells the same story of experimenters failing to use a second method and freezing the animals alive in the lab’s dead animal freezer.

It’s heartbreaking to imagine animals slowly suffocating into unconsciousness, only to wake up in a dark freezer inside a bag surrounded by dead or dying bodies. Unfortunately, many laboratories fail to learn from their mistakes, and cause this trauma to happen over and over.

We think this is unacceptable, and we know you do too. Join the movement to put an end to these types of abuses by downloading our Activist Starter Kit.