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  1. News Release

  2. May 28, 2021

Doctors File Federal Complaint Over UC Surgery Training

University Found to Be Using Live Animals From Unlicensed Source

CINCINNATI—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—has filed a federal complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), requesting that the USDA investigate the use of live animals for training general surgery residents at the University of Cincinnati (UC). UC has its general surgery residents cut into live pigs and perform invasive procedures as part of their training, even though 196 of 256 surveyed U.S. residencies do not use animals. 

Further, the Physicians Committee has filed a second complaint requesting that the USDA investigate Isler Genetics, the Prospect, Ohio, company illegally selling these pigs to UC without a license. Public records obtained from UC reveal that the company has routinely delivered pigs to the university as far back as 2018 and as recently as April 6, 2021. As many as 108 pigs are used every three years in UC’s surgery training program.

The Physicians Committee points out that, under the Animal Welfare Act, researchers and course instructors must consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to an animal. With 77% of surveyed programs elsewhere in the country using nonanimal methods exclusively—including both Cleveland Clinic campuses, Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati, Kettering Health Network in Dayton, OhioHealth Doctors Hospital in Columbus, and Wright State University—the nonprofit’s complaint points out that acceptable nonanimal training methods exist and are widely used. 

All surgery skills, including both open and laparoscopic procedures, can be taught using human-based methods, such as human-patient simulators, laparoscopic simulators, virtual reality simulators, human cadavers, and partial task trainers. UC already has a state-of-the-art facility, the UC Simulation Center, which, among many other trainers and technologies, houses an advanced patient simulator, Laerdal’s SimMan, which can be used to teach chest tube placement, tracheostomy care and suctioning, cricothyroidotomy, urinary catheterization, bleeding and hemorrhage control, and cardiac pacing.

Compared to the human body, pigs have smaller torsos, lighter limbs, and thicker skin. There are also important differences in the anatomy of the head and neck, internal organs, rib cage, blood vessels, and the airway. Instead of animals, human-based medical simulators and human cadavers are widely used for medical training. Simulators accurately replicate human anatomy and physiology and can include layers of lifelike skin, fat, and muscle. 

“UC’s peers are not using animals, and even the U.S. military has published studies showing the equivalence or superiority of nonanimal training methods compared to using animals,” said John Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “There’s no doubt that using animals is not right here. We were obligated to report this information to the USDA and to request that they order correction and the appropriate penalties.”

For copies of the complaints or to speak with Dr. Pippin, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at] (rpohl[at]pcrm[dot]org)

Media Contact

Reina Pohl, MPH



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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