Public Research Lab Ignores Animal Welfare in Favor of Profits: New York Times

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Public Research Lab Ignores Animal Welfare in Favor of Profits: New York Times

Taxpayer-funded bio-engineering farm tortures, neglects animals for meat industry payouts, according to new reporting.

Cows penned at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, the site of brutal animal testing. (Photo: University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center routinely tortures, abuses, and neglects the animals housed at its remote Nebraska laboratory, using them for bio-engineering experiments to benefit the meat industry with no regard for their welfare, an investigation published Tuesday by the New York Times has discovered.

The taxpayer-funded plant in Clay Center, Nebraska, which the Times describes as a "complex of laboratories and pastures that sprawls over 55 square miles," was established by Congress 50 years ago to help producers of beef, pork, and lamb turn a profit as American diets increasingly turn away from dark meat and toward fish, poultry, and produce.

Despite some success in expanding food safety, the center has spent the past several decades subjecting its pigs, sheep, cows, lambs, and other livestock to "illness, pain and premature death," while actively resisting public demand for better welfare of experimental animals. As such, the Times notes, the laboratory "has become a destination for the kind of high-risk, potentially controversial research that other institutions will not do or are no longer allowed to do."

Dr. James Keen, a scientist and veterinarian who worked at the center for 24 years, approached the Times with his concerns over the animals' welfare after previous attempts to raise the issue resulted in a university supervisor informing him that he was no longer welcome at the center.

"They pay tons of attention to increasing animal production, and just a pebble-sized concern to animal welfare," Keen told the Times. He described unsanitary housing and brutal treatment of pigs; violent forced mating between bulls and cows; and hormonal experiments conducted on sheep, among other atrocities.

Until recently, the animals belonged to the nearby University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which also sent many of its veterinary students to the center for job training—albeit in an adjacent building. But the center was responsible for their welfare.

The Times continues:

Of the 580,000 animals the center has housed since 1985, when its most ambitious projects got underway, at least 6,500 have starved. A single, treatable malady — mastitis, a painful infection of the udder — has killed more than 625. ...

The center has about 30,000 animals, tended by about 44 scientists, 73 technicians and other support workers. The scientists, who do not have medical degrees, and their assistants euthanize and operate on livestock, sometimes doing two or more major surgical operations on the same animal.

The center's inhumane treatment of the animals "probably looks fine to them because they’re not thinking about it, and they’re not being held accountable," Keen told the Times. "But most Americans and even livestock producers would be hard pressed to support some of the things that the center has done."

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