Animal Researchers Are Tin Men: They Need HEARTS

The Rise for Animals Team, December 11, 2023

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With an investment of at least $12 billion dollars each year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest funder of animal research worldwide. It, therefore, bears tremendous responsibility for researchers’ failures to develop, embrace, and capitalize on human-relevant, non-animal research methods. 

Since 1993, the NIH has been tasked with developing and validating human-relevant research methods, yet it has failed to do so.

In 1993, Congress passed the NIH Revitalization Act, which directed the NIH to both support research to replace and reduce animal use and develop and validate “alternatives” to animal use. 

But, by not allocating or requiring the allocation of money to this effort, the Act failed to speak the animal research industry’s language. To be sure, while admitting that over 90% of new drugs fail in human clinical trials after passing animal trials, the NIH has continued to shirk the NIH Revitalization Act’s purported intent, investing more than half of its annual budget in animal research.  

Stakeholders interested in more than money – like, say . . . human health – have recognized the need for financial incentivization in the human-relevant research space. Enter the HEARTS Act.

A bipartisan effort reintroduced this past February, the Humane and Existing Alternatives in Research and Testing Sciences (HEARTS) Act purports to provide here-to-fore lacking incentives for researchers to develop and utilize non-animal methods by pressuring the NIH to advance these methods. 

This bill would, for example, establish as part of the NIH the National Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing, which would “provide assistance (including funding) to federally funded researchers to incentivize the development and qualification of nonanimal methods….” and “train and inform scientists about the[se] methods….”

Though the HEARTS Act would not prohibit or discourage animal-based research, it would seek to advance research that does not exploit other-than-humans and would, simultaneously, make a few other, important changes.

  • It would increase transparency and accountability by requiring that federally-funded facilities report to the NIH (and the NIH report to the public) the number of other-than-human animals exploited for research purposes. (Currently, this number is unknown because it is not counted, rendering it impossible to identify the number of lives subjugated by federal researchers or even ascertain fluctuations in federally-funded animal use.)
  • It would expand the Health Research Extension Act’s definition of “animal” to include cephalopods, a class of sentient beings currently falling outside the purview of all federal laws and regulations pertaining to animal research.

Animal researchers have never demonstrated hearts for animals, humans included, and they won’t until we force them to. 

Our collective interests in health, ethics, and justice counsel in favor of the HEARTS Act, so it is incumbent upon us to rise up in its support. Let’s use our hearts to force one upon the animal research industry.

Take Action

If your Representative is sponsoring the HEARTS Act, please thank them and express your support: