Whistles Blown: Animal Researchers Don’t Do What They Say

The Rise for Animals Team, June 27, 2024

Animal researchers often preach about how much they care about the animals they intentionally and self-interestedly harm. 

They most commonly do this by making general claims chock-full of industry buzzwords and phrases like “highest standards”, “humane”, and “[animal] welfare”. Unfortunately, these generalizations are as hollow as their claims that animal experimentation benefits human health.

When we get a glimpse of what they do — not just what they say they do — the baldness of their lies overwhelms. Here are just a handful of newly-documented examples reported by laboratory staff:

📍 Everett, Washington

  • What They Say: “We maintain an unwavering focus on the welfare of the laboratory animals in our care.”
  • What They Do
    • Suppress ongoing and staff-reported animal welfare concerns. A whistleblower, who was ignored and silenced after reporting that monkeys were having 50-300% too much blood drawn for testing, observed that the lab protects certain of its workers “certainly more than the monkeys” and lamented: “I don’t know how to protect the animals if I can’t tell anyone that they’re being overbled.” 
    • Direct employees to stop raising concerns and to stop using specific language in emails. The same whistleblower was told not to contact the lab’s bad actors and not to use the accurate (but damning) term “overdrawn” in written correspondence (because, said the lab, “we simply ‘don’t know where the extra serum/plasma is coming from’”).
    • Refer to employees who draw blood from animals as “bleeder[s]” and groups of these employees as “bleed teams”.

📍 Worcester, Massachusetts

  • What They Say: They boast of operating the “[l]argest [nonhuman primate] lab in New England” and having been accredited by AAALAC, intentionally implying both expertise in and attention to animal welfare.
  • What They Do: 
    • Physically injure monkeys and, then, “actively encourage employees not to report” or “document” these injuries
    • Pressure staff to approve monkeys for certain uses even when they “don’t satisfy the criteria” (to, as reported by a whistleblower, “pass the animals at all costs to keep studies running”). 
    • Leave monkeys in restraint chairs “sometimes trapped in, longer than they should be”
    • Manhandle monkeys in ways not approved by official policies while pressuring staff to keep quiet (says the same whistleblower: “everyone knows [this] happens, but they also know not to speak of it.”).

📍Waverly, New York

  • What They Say: We “[e]nsur[e] the well-being of our animals.”
  • What They Do
    • Restrain animals so tightly that they scream.
    • “[T]ake on too many studies and [kill] animals to make room for other studies”.
    • Fail to ensure “‘enough’” personnel “to take care of the animals”.
    • Prioritize “get[ting] the study done no matter the cost”.

📍Richmond, California

  • What They Say: 
    • “We treat our animals humanely and with respect. We follow a Code of Respect….”
    • “We minimize animal discomfort.”
    • “At JOINN, animal welfare means . . .  that the animals are provided with the best husbandry available to experience a stress-free life and good health.”
    • “We train JOINN employees who handle animals to utilize the best techniques and procedures….”
    • “If we learn that any of our employees have failed to follow the Code of Respect, we will take appropriate remedial and disciplinary actions.”
  • What They Do
    • Permit “un qualified” employees to handle, “train[]”, and provide “veterinary services” to animals. A whistleblower reported that “most injuries” to animals “are due to human error”, with such injuries including lacerations (that have resulted in digit amputation), “severe abrasions” to a face, “blood” coming from an ear, and “strap injuries”.
    • “[M]ishandle[]” and “taunt[]” monkeys, inducing stress and causing them to act violently toward staff.
    • Force monkeys to “wear” collars that cause “huge lesions”, “open wounds”, and “abrasions”.
    • Turn away employees trying to report animal welfare concerns and ignore their concerns. As one whistleblower lamented:  “my higher up . . . kept speaking over me, not allowing me to tell her the whole story because bluntly she did not want to hear it. She made me feel defeated . . . I can’t go to my study director, let alone any higher ups . . . I am utterly alone fending for these primates.” And, as another whistleblower bemoaned: “[n]o one cares for the animals here . . . This place only cares about profit and nothing else, they don’t actually respect the animals.” 
    • Prohibit employees from storing “images of cases pertaining to animal health” on the company drive.

📍 Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • What They Say: “The U maintains the highest standards of animal care….”
  • What They Do: 
    • Commit “egregious” surgical “mistakes” – such as, as reported by a whistleblower, causing screws to “protrude through” a monkey’s skull – and, then, hide these “mistakes” by deflecting blame, erasing evidence, and altering records. The same whistleblower reported: “[Redacted] tried to cover this up . . . made slanderous accusations to others about [redacted], deleted the CT of another [nonhuman primate] he had operated on (with similar issues) without telling anyone or providing that [nonhuman primates’ principal investigator] with a copy, and deleted information on [the nonhuman primate]’s health document and training documents. One of these deletions mentioned that [the nonhuman primate] was favoring a leg and showed signs of hemiparesis – indications of a neurological issue.”
    • Violate surgical protocols, such as by cutting through monkeys’ skulls with electric, rather than hand, drills; and
    • Direct staff “not to go to the vets about health issues and other concerns” and, then, “chastise[]” employees who report their concerns.

📍 El Paso, Texas

  • What They Say: They “assure that UTEP researchers care for and use animals in ways judged to be scientifically, technically, and humanely appropriate.”
  • What They Do: Allow graduate students to “roughly handle[]” and “scream[]” obscenities at animals. A whistleblower reported that a researcher had been observed yelling at prairie voles who tried to resist his handling (e.g., “‘shut the fuck up bitch, stop fighting it’”).

Seattle, Washington

  • What They Say
    • “[E]mployees are committed to the health and welfare of our research animals”.
    • Animals receive “round-the-clock care . . . grounded in a respect for life….”
  • What They Do: Fail to oversee “laboratory trainee[s]” approved to implant devices into monkey brains, resulting in unintentional brain trauma and neurological deficits

This (and much, much more) evidence of the industry’s blatant lies and depravity exists in public records shared by Rise for Animals. Find it all in our ARLO database (which is accessible by anyone and completely free to use).*

Newly available records also document animal researchers: 

Though devastating, there is tremendous power in witnessing and sharing the truth – and both are vital to our movement for animal rights. This means that we can help animals in labs just by educating ourselves and spreading the word. We are dedicated to making this happen – join us!

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*Watch a brief video overview of how to use ARLO here