Blind Lab Rabbits are the Latest Victims of Sequestration

What do Head Start, services for kids with disabilities, health services for Native Americans, upkeep for national parks and Forest Service firefighters have in common? Sequestration, the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that went into effect March 1, which has meant the reduction or the elimination of funding for all of these.

Sequestration has also meant that one professor, after seeing his funding from the National Institutes of Health cut, has been forced to euthanize genetically modified rabbits.

As a result of sequestration, the NIH lost 5 percent of its budget, a total of $1.55 billion that had been used to fund medical research including the development of better cancer drugs, a universal flu vaccine and treatments for Alzheimer’s. Halting research will have long-term consequences: some five million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s and about $200 billion is spent on their care, a huge strain on families and the health care system.

Another scientist, Michael Garvin of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries who has developed technology to assist in the conservation of wildlife in Alaska and other polar regions, explained to the Huffington Post that sequestration has meant the disappearance of opportunities for him to continue his work under federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Blind Lab Rabbits Killed Due to Lack of Funding

Robert E. Marc, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, told the Huffington Post how sequestration meant he had to euthanize lab rabbits:

I have riffed one postdoctoral fellow and euthanized many beautiful, rare and expensive transgenic rabbits that were new, exciting models for testing new therapies for human retinal degenerations. We petted them, played with them, fed them treats. Now they are dead. I blame Congress directly for that.

Marc had spent more than $25,000 to create a “colony of animals who have a progressive age dependent blindness” — a colony of blind rabbits, essentially. Unable to pay for equipment, service contracts on the equipment and other lab resources, he concluded that the only thing to do was to euthanize the rabbits before finishing the treatment study.

While saving $4,000 for this year’s budget, the total costs due to having to abandon research before it was completed add up to wasting “5x more money than the sequester saved,” says Marc. Should the funding situation not improve in the near future, Marc says he’ll give up on the blindness research, retire early and shut down his lab. As a result, the fifteen people who work there could lose their jobs.

The use of rabbits, rodents and other animals for scientific experiments and testing is troubling enough as report after report about animals dying cruel deaths and/or subjected to extensive suffering has too often revealed. Did the genetically modified rabbits in Marc’s lab have to be killed? Were any alternatives such as offering them for donation considered?

At a time when funding for scientific research is being cut, it is more than time to reconsider the use of animals in experiments. The costs incurred in breeding and caring for animals like rabbits who have been genetically engineered to have “progressive age dependent blindness” are known. Rather than create such rabbits only to have to euthanize them, the budgets cuts from sequestration ought to be an impetus to seek out other ways to conduct research.

I suspect a scientist can offer a myriad of reasons why such is not viable. But as Marc and other scientists have made very clear, there are simply fewer research dollars to go around. With this in mind, it is more important than ever that those dollars are used not only wisely but humanely.


Photo from Thinkstock

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven23 days ago

thanks for the article.

Sheri D.
Sheri D.1 years ago

poor rabbits!

Jeannet Bertelink


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Dawnie D.
Past Member 2 years ago

Sad, sad, sad...There must have been a better solution for these poor rabbits who gave humans so much with out having any say in it what so ever. If humans breed them with disabilities and experiment on them the least they could do is find them a safe haven to live out their time in peace with kindness. But no! The answer is just get a needle and euthanize them all. Kill seems to be the answer when it's too hard to think outside the box.
ღƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒღ¸.•°*”˜ღPeace and Loveღ˜”*°•.ღƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒღ

David V.
David V.2 years ago

There should be legislation preventing the use of animals for testing. Put an end to the use of lab animals.

Ei A.
Ei R.2 years ago

P.S. In this case it is good that they have been spared a life of medical experiments, but why kill them? There had to be a better solution.

Ei A.
Ei R.2 years ago

I blame Congress too!

Michele Grider
Michele Grider2 years ago

Now why are not items like this covered on national news programs in sequestration bill issues?

N Towle
Nan Towle2 years ago

"First, do no harm". One of the principal precepts of medical ethics taught is the fundamental principle to remind physicians and other health care providers that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do.

According to Albert Schweitzer, “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”
He felt that "...there is no reason that compassion and empathy should only be reserved for humans..."

(continued from previous post. Thanks.)
If you look hard enough, you can find ways. You try. Humans are animals too. We are all sentient beings that experience needs, wants and desires.

The Dr. may not have considered that the lives of these rabbits were important, but to each individual rabbit, it was a very big deal. Their lives were as important to them as ours is to us. A concept one should get in the field of medicine and "first do no harm".

Additionally there are blind animals born everyday, perhaps they could have been helped instead of purposely bringing healthy individuals into this world for blindness, disability and death. These sentient being were not "things" for self appointed purpose or whim. Animals do not work as a substitute for the human