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The Physicians Committee



Biodefense Bill Proposes Cruel Animal Tests

catsA new Senate bill, ostensibly introduced to address bioterrorism and pandemic threats, appears to be essentially a blank check for cruel animal experiments.

S. 1873, the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005, provides funding to develop animal “models” for human health problems remotely related to pandemic disease and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

In section 409J., the bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “establish and award grants under this section to eligible entities, including other Federal agencies, to study the physiological responses of certain animal species and, where appropriate, juvenile models, to chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents or toxins or potential pandemic infectious disease, and to develop and validate such animal models.”

These provisions are not so much designed to defend the United States as they are to bankroll research.

The bill has other flaws. S. 1873 excludes more valid research methods for bioterrorism studies. And one provision would exempt the government’s new bioterrorism efforts from the Freedom of Information Act, making it nearly impossible to monitor these experiments and prevent animal abuse.

If the bill passes in its current form, it’s impossible to predict how many animals will suffer and die.

In the best of times, animal tests are poor predictors of human disease manifestations. They failed to predict the dangers of pharmaceuticals like Vioxx and chemicals such as benzene and chromium. Chemotherapeutic treatments that worked in animals failed when tested in humans.

On the other hand, research using non-animal methods has led to information on how HIV, polio, smoking, and multiple sclerosis affect humans. These promising techniques include in vitro cell and tissue culture studies, human clinical and epidemiological research, computer modeling, and cadaver studies. Because these non-animal methods are based on human cells and tissues, they are more accurate than experiments on animals.

The Senate is likely to vote on S. 1873 in the coming months, so PCRM has begun contacting key lawmakers to express concern about the flawed bill. Our message is simple: For ethical and scientific reasons, the search for defenses against future biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear, or infectious agents and toxins must not exclude non-animal research methods. Moreover, biological threats should not be a reason for a blank check for cruelty.

PCRM members can help. Contact your senator and explain that S. 1873 must be amended to preserve government openness and include funding for nonanimal research.



 

PCRM Online, December 2005

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