The advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has requested that the state of New Jersey and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) audit the University’s use of funding on animal research.
This comes after a special report from The Daily Targum found that the University will be receiving $1.15 million in state coronavirus disease (COVID-19) aid as reimbursement for the euthanization of approximately 23,000 research mice at the start of the pandemic.
“If Rutgers can sentence 23,000 mice in its laboratories to death in ‘non-critical’ tests, then the animals shouldn’t have been there in the first place and taxpayers shouldn’t have footed the bill,” said PETA Vice President Shalin Gala, according to a press release. “PETA is calling on state and federal officials to launch an audit and recover taxpayer funds wasted on admittedly non-essential animal experiments.”
In letters to New Jersey State Auditor David Kaschak and NIH’s Division of Program Integrity Director Deborah Kearse, PETA is asking that the state seek reimbursement for all funds that were directed towards animal research deemed non-essential by the University, as well as to ensure future animal research at the University is terminated.
PETA has also sent a letter to University President Jonathan Holloway to call on the University to return any funds from the federal or state governments used for non-essential research and animal euthanization.
“Under this standard, the number of unnecessary, non-essential, noncritical or extraneous animals used in the aforementioned experiments should have been zero from the start, since they weren’t relevant to the protocols conducted by Rutgers’ employees,” the letter states. “Also, because taxpayer funds were used to acquire, breed, confine and/or maintain these unnecessary, non-essential, noncritical or extraneous animals who were then so readily euthanized and disposed of in response to COVID-19, Rutgers should reimburse the funding agencies for this fiscal waste instead of seeking compensations for losses incurred.”
As previously reported by the Targum, the University stated that the euthanization of research animals during this time was necessary due to the major decrease in research as a result of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shutdowns.
“During the ramp-down of research last year, principal investigators (PI) were asked to scale down or stop research not deemed critical,” University spokesperson Dory Devlin said. ”Mitigating measures, including halting breeding and not starting new studies, as stated before, significantly reduced any need for euthanization. Unfortunately, ending studies early can lead to euthanization. When these decisions are made by a PI … , Rutgers and its researchers fully comply with all requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.”