Skip to main content
  1. News Release

  2. Oct 13, 2022

Doctors Group Files Federal Complaints Against Medical School Over Research Studies Using Piglets

Human Nutrition Should Be Studied in Humans, Group Says

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed complaints today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) alleging that two University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences research studies that resulted in the deaths of 52 piglets violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). 

The national nonprofit with more than 17,000 doctor members argues that the studies did not warrant the killing of animals because the stated research goal — the nutritional effects of commercial infant formula — has already been extensively studied in humans.

In the first study, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences experimenters fed 30 male piglets different diets to determine whether soy formula stimulates estrogen and can alter male reproductive development. After three weeks, experimenters killed the piglets to weigh their testis, prostates, and other tissues. The study, which concluded that soy formula does not alter male reproductive development, violated the AWA because dozens of human studies had already reached this conclusion about both cow’s milk-based and soy-based infant formulas.

In the second study, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences experimenters fed 22 piglets either pasteurized human milk or dairy-based infant formula. At 21 days old, experimenters killed the piglets and removed their intestinal contents to analyze the effect of the diets on their gut microbiomes. Differences in gut microbiota in breastfed and formula-fed infants have been studied extensively in humans. According to the Physicians Committee, the use of animals demonstrated both a lack of scientific merit and research misconduct under the AWA. The second study, which received NIH funding, resulted in complaints to both APHIS and OLAW by the Physicians Committee. 

“University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences can’t justify the killing of animals to study a diet that’s been safely fed to human infants,” said Janine McCarthy, MPH, with the Physicians Committee. “The goals of these studies could have been accomplished without using animals.”

At federally funded research institutions, any use of live animals for research, testing, or training must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The Physicians Committee believes that inadequate oversight by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ IACUC is responsible for the improper approval and ongoing use of live animals for human nutrition research.

The Physicians Committee requested that APHIS and OLAW investigate these studies and order correction and appropriate penalties. 

For an interview with Ms. McCarthy, please contact Kim Kilbride at 202-717-8665 or at kkilbride [at]

Media Contact

Kim Kilbride



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.

More on Ethical Science