Groups protest animal testing

    As part of the annual World Week for Animals in Laboratories campaign, activists from UCSD Students Against Animal Suffering and San Diego Animal Advocates protested on April 20 against animal testing conducted at UCSD.

    Billy Wong

    Protesters stood at the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Villa La Jolla Drive, passing out information and holding signs with messages such as “Unseen Cruelty, Suffering and Death” and “Vivisection: Science Gone Mad.”

    “We learned of the cruel and wasteful experiments going on at UCSD and decided to have a protest in conjunction with World Week for Animals in Laboratories,” Jill Fritz, president of San Diego Animal Advocates, said.

    Due to pressure from protesters, the UCSD School of Medicine decided in August 2003 to drop a course requirement in which students watched experiments and demonstrations on live dogs.

    According to Fritz, however, approximately 467 animal experiments are currently taking place at UCSD.

    The protesters said the school still uses primates, rodents and other animals to conduct research.

    “I think that it’s good that [UCSD] has taken out a lot of the dog labs, but I know that they still do a lot of primate research, especially for neurological research,” Christina Gibson, a Thurgood Marshall College senior and a member of Students Against Animal Suffering, said. “From my own exploration of the current literature out there, a lot of their research is obsolete.”

    According to Andrea Chiba, a UCSD cognitive science professor who is a part of the neuroscience program, less than 5 percent of animal research conducted at the university is done with primates. A majority of the research uses rodents, Chiba said.

    Protesters also claimed that animal test subjects are not given proper protection.

    “Over 90 percent of the animals that are used in labs receive absolutely no protection at all under the Federal Animal Welfare Act. Even for the animals that are protected, if the vivisector thinks that that pain is necessary, he is under no responsibility to alleviate that pain,” Megan Sewell, president of Students Against Animal Suffering, said.

    Jane Cartmill, a member of San Diego Animal Advocates who dressed up for the protest in a Frankenstein costume, echoed the sentiment.

    “I think [the UCSD policy] sounds good on paper, but like all of the institutional animal care guidelines, they are pretty much self-regulated,” Cartmill said. “When you read the Animal Welfare Act, you realize how much is left up to the discretion of the individual investigator. Because of that, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house. We’re not comforted by the fact that they have what they call a policy of humane care.”

    Chiba said that animal test subjects are usually protected by regulations and cared for by researchers.

    “The animals are covered by several government regulations,” Chiba said. “You really can’t get good research when the animals aren’t well cared for.”

    The activists emphasized the importance of allocating money to prevent health-related diseases, rather than using animal testing to find new cures. Protesters cited statistics from the American Cancer Society, stating that 70 to 80 percent of cancer is preventable, but 70 to 80 percent of funding is not going toward prevention.

    “We’re wasting billions of dollars on research that has not really proven to be productive,” Sid Shapiro, a member of San Diego Animal Advocates, said. “We’d be much better served by spending that money on preventative health care.”

    Chiba emphasized that the animal testing at school was useful for medical and veterinary research.

    “The one thing that people should be aware of is that the animal research conducted at UCSD is aimed at medical research and is even better for animals sometimes, because a lot of the research goes toward veterinary techniques,” Chiba said.

    Students Against Animal Suffering, which was involved in the campaign to end the use of dog labs at UCSD and in a campaign against fur clothing sold at Neiman Marcus, will disseminate more information on animal testing for commercial and medical research on campus April 22.

    “We’d just like [UCSD] to start phasing out animal testing and to take a responsible position because animal testing … is outdated, it’s unnecessary, and it’s absolutely cruel,” Sewell said.

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