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People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sent out a press release Tuesday, Oct. 23 addressing complaints they had toward CU’s use of animals in laboratories.
According to the press release, PETA has been working for months trying to resolve the issue internally with CU, but they claim that their concerns were ignored. PETA is now stepping out and raising awareness.
Saira Siraj, a 21-year-old senior management major, believes animal testing to be an unethical practice that should not be used in any circumstance.
“I’m against it. I feel like it is the same as animal abuse,” Siraj said. “If abusing your pets at home is illegal, then animal testing should be illegal as well.”
John Basey, senior instructor in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, explained the caution that is used when animals are used to experiment in his department.
“We do one experiment on animal behavior over the course of the semester and the experiment is the same for both classes,” Based said. “We also dissect fetal pigs which are byproducts of the meat-packing industry and are not sacrificed for the dissection lab. We take animal welfare seriously and would not harm animals in the gen bio labs since there are many alternatives to just about everything.”
Basey explained PETA’s concerns about “students [placing] fish in tanks and then [adding] ‘intruder’ fish and watch them fight.”
“In order to insure that fish are not treated improperly, I am very careful with the set up and it takes me quite a while to get things just right,” Basey said. “First of all, resident fish are more aggressive because they want to protect their home. I can avoid aggressive interactions by keeping the resident fish small.”
After the fish involved in the experiments have completed testing, students are allowed to take the fish home and care for them as pets.
Another concern that was raised by PETA was the testing of lab rats in controlled mazes.
Albert Petkus, CU Veterinarian and Animal Resources Director, doesn’t believe this to be the case. He explains that the experiment takes the well being of the rats into consideration.
“There’s no intent to exhaust them,” Petkus said. “It’s just how they learn, with visual ques.”
The experiment involves a maze in which rats are placed in water and are trained to find a certain endpoint. Petkus said that the rats swim at their own will, and many are able to float with no effort required on their part.
These rats are then donated to the Birds of Prey foundation, where the rats act as a food source for many of the birds.
In another experiment, rats are anesthetized and are cut open to observe different reactions on the heart. A similar experiment is performed with frogs. Both animals according to Petkus, are euthanized by trained Teaching Assistants and are properly sedated so no pain is felt.
Joshua Small, a 22-year-old senior Japanese and film studies major, said that although he disagrees with the labs’ treatment of animals, he sees no other alternative.
“I think its immoral, but it’s utilitarian and it’s one of the things that has such a precedent that it’s very difficult to go against it,” Small said. “It’s like fighting a huge wall with just a toothpick.”
Petkus also addressed the involvement of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at CU. IACUC evaluates labs to ensure the safety of animals and proper treatment of animals.
Petkus said funding agencies don’t provide money unless certain regulations have been met and confirmed upon.
“Funding agencies want to hear from IACUC,” Petkus said.
PETA Associate Director of Laboratory Investigations Department, Justin Goodman, addressed his concern about lab techniques used by CU Denver compared to CU Boulder.
“Clearly the change can be made,” Goodman said. “It’s been made at CU Boulder’s sister school.”
According to PETA’s press release, CU Denver no longer uses animals in testing classroom experiments and instead uses simulation.
Petkus said that the highly controversial topic of animal testing in labs varies from lab to lab.
“I don’t know what they use down there [CU Denver],” Petkus said. “This has been an educational debate for a long time.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Haleema Mian at Haleema.firstname.lastname@example.org.