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Getting Cephalopods Out of Research

Cephalopods are a class of aquatic animals that don’t have backbones, such as squids, octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautiluses. Cephalopods are delicate creatures, requiring highly specialized care in captive environments to avoid distress, disease, and death. They are also highly intelligent, with complex nervous systems, unique behavioral repertoires, and capacity for pain. 

Being invertebrates, cephalopods are excluded from United States policy that regulates the care and use of laboratory animals. Despite these facts, cephalopods are used in a variety of federally funded research contexts and evidence suggests their use is increasing. In the short term, the Physicians Committee is working urgently to close the gap that allows researchers to experiment on cephalopods without any federally mandated oversight. Ultimately, invasive research using cephalopods should be replaced with nonanimal, human-specific approaches or noninvasive wildlife research.

Closing the Gap

A Virtual Briefing on Establishing Federal Research Protections for Cephalopods

On September 23, 2022, our team was "on the Hill" for a virtual Congressional briefing to raise awareness about this important issue and to urge Congress to help us put pressure on agencies to take action and protect cephalopods.

Good Science Digest

Physicians Committee Comments on Important Cephalopod Guidance

Proposed guidance from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the care and use of cephalopods—octopus, squid, and cuttlefish—does not address the policy gaps that leave these animals unprotected in federally funded research.

Good Science Digest

Winning Protections for Cephalopods

After years of mounting pressure from researchers, advocates, and Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took a major step toward better protections for cephalopods—octopus, squid, and cuttlefish—used in research, releasing proposed guidance on their care and use.

Good Science Digest

Congress Takes Action to Protect Cephalopods in Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) may claim a commitment to promoting high animal welfare standards in the research it supports, but the agency often falls well short of expectations. With Congress’ help, it’s time for the agency to follow through on this commitment for one class of animals. 

News Release

Nineteen Lawmakers Request Protections for Cephalopods Used in Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Mass., along with 18 other federal lawmakers, is calling on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enact protections for cephalopods — octopus, squid, and cuttlefish — which are increasingly being used in laboratory research without federal requirements for “humane” handling.  

Good Science Digest

Cephalopods Belong in the Ocean, not the Laboratory

Cephalopods like octopuses and squids have long captivated human imagination, but let’s leave observational research about them in the ocean and save the laboratory for more human-relevant approaches.

News Release

Physicians Committee Joins Coalition in Petitioning NIH to Protect Octopuses Used in Research Labs

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic, along with a coalition that includes the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has petitioned the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include cephalopods—octopus, squid, and cuttlefish—among the animals entitled to humane treatment by those involved in federally funded research.

Good Science Digest

How Science Can Spare Aquatic Animals

Aquatic animals include not just fish but also amphibians, marine mammals, crustaceans, reptiles, mollusks, aquatic birds, aquatic insects, starfish, and corals.