PETA to Northwestern: Clean Up Your Laboratories!

Northwestern University near Chicago continues to foster a culture of negligence and cruelty in its laboratories, leaving animals reeling in pain while experimenters and staffers either refuse or neglect to provide them with the most basic animal welfare protections, according to new federal records obtained by PETA.

In a letter sent today, PETA points out that NU’s laboratories amassed 14 violations of federal animal welfare guidelines between December 2020 and December 2021, and calls on incoming NU President Michael H. Schill to enact policies prohibiting experimenters who run afoul of minimum federal guidelines from being permitted to have contact with animals in the school’s laboratories.

Some of the violations were violently grotesque.

In one, an inadequately trained experimenter unsuccessfully performed “cervical dislocation euthanasia” on two mice. “Cervical dislocation euthanasia” is a sanitized euphemism for snapping a mouse’s spine at the base of the head by pulling the head and tail in opposite directions. In a separate incident, a different experimenter who had no authority to snap the necks of nine mice did so anyway.

According to federal documents, Northwestern experimenters have a well-worn habit of going off script and doing whatever they like, regardless of whether procedures are approved. See, for instance, the following:

  • Experimenters put 33 mice on a high-fat diet for three months, collected their blood, and then killed 13 of them.
  • Experimenters subjected 36 mice to behavior experiments that had not been approved.
  • Experimenters subjected eight mice to a procedure in which the body’s immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation, and then killed them. The procedure had not been approved.
  • Experimenters gave 11 mice an unapproved drug that leaked into their bedding from a water bottle, and then they killed them.
  • Experimenters gave 10 mice unapproved cell injections and then killed them.

Three rats look out of cage

The federal documents obtained by PETA showcase Northwestern experimenters’ callousness toward animals’ suffering:

  • On two separate occasions, experimenters amputated a portion of the tails of seven mice, who received no anesthetics or pain relief as required.
  • On two other occasions, experimenters improperly removed the fur from mice before surgery. One mouse was found dead, and 16 others developed skin lesions and were killed. One of the procedures had not been approved.

Public Money Comes With Accountability

In 2021, Northwestern received more than $48 million in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health. The public who bankrolls these laboratories can rightfully expect that the school will comply with the bare minimum animal-care standards provided by federal regulations and guidelines. Its continued failure to uphold these bargain-basement standards represents an abject violation of the public’s trust.

Notorious Northwestern Laboratory Alumni

Two notorious names have come from the bowels of Northwestern’s animal experimentation laboratories. Wyndham Lathem was sentenced to 53 years in prison for the murder of his boyfriend. Lathem—along with an accomplice—stabbed his boyfriend 70 times, nearly decapitating him. As a staffer in a Northwestern laboratory, Lathem infected mice with the bubonic plague and watched as they slowly died.

Jules Masserman was an experimenter at Northwestern who found that monkeys exhibited such empathy that they would starve themselves rather than pulling a lever to deliver painful electric shocks to other monkeys to obtain food. Yet he continued using them throughout his career. Masserman, who was also in private practice, was accused by several patients of drugging and sexually abusing them. He denied doing so but settled out of court with four women and gave up his medical license. The American Psychiatric Association suspended him for five years rather than expelling him.

We Have Been Here Before

PETA already urged Northwestern to clean up its act in a March 31, 2020, letter to the former college president, which cited documentation that animals were being used in painful, invasive procedures in unsterile conditions or denied appropriate pain relief. We called on the school to take action to address its alarming culture of disregard for basic animal welfare.

But the problems persist. Animals continue to suffer.

The new administration must do what the previous did not: Tell rogue experimenters that the party’s over. Experiments on animals will be canceled, animal experimentation privileges will be revoked, and access to animal laboratories will be denied for any experimenter violating federal laws or guidelines. Without a serious response, serious violations will continue. It’s time Northwestern addressed its failures and adopted PETA scientists’ Research Modernization Deal—a strategy for replacing animal experiments with modern, human-relevant, animal-free research methods.

What You Can Do

Join thousands of PETA supporters who have already called on Congress to stop throwing away taxpayer money on cruel, useless animal experiments and instead focus on superior, non-animal research methods.

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