March 26

Lab Animals are Protected, Children are Not

Lab Animals Used in Research are Protected by Laws; Children are Not

March 26, 2002

There is no law such as the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, to protect the welfare of human beings – including children – who are subjects of biomedical research. There are no mandates under U.S. law to protect children from harmful, duplicative, or unjustifiable experiments.

Among the protections that animals have been assured under U.S. law – and children have not – are the following: documented justification for the necessity of including animals in an experiment rather than utilizing alternative methods to obtain the information sought; no "unnecessary duplication of experiments"; documentation of the well-being and outcome of each animal who is a subject of medical research; certification of those conducting research with animals to ensure their professional competence and training in ethical standards and procedures; an independent veterinary with authority to oversee research procedures to ensure that appropriate humane needs and standards of care are met; unannounced site inspections required of both the institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC), and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Resources have been provided by Congress for 75 Federal inspectors to ensure that 2 million mammals are protected, the additional 23 million mice, rats and birds who have now gained protections under the Animal Welfare Act, will require an additional cadre of inspectors. There are no mandatory site inspections to protect more than 10 million human subjects – including children.

None of the animal safeguards are mandated by law in research with human beings. Rats, but not children, have legal standing; rats, but not children, have gained legal protections.

The Animal Welfare Act ensures that ethical standards and safeguards are followed because those conducting animal research are held accountable – those conducting research involving children are not held accountable. How many children have been harmed in clinical trials? How many children have died in clinical trials? No one keeps count.

This is a moral travesty that needs to be set right by responsible, legislative remediation.

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