Animal testing at Vanderbilt University is evidently on a need-to-know basis.
Jon Christian, the editor-in-chief of Orbis, the progressive VU newspaper wrote about what he called the “veil of silence” over Vanderbilt’s animal testing program.
According to Christian, university staff associated with animal testing “quickly terminated” their phone calls with him, refused to return his messages, and everyone says they are prohibited from talking with the press.
There is only one person at VU authorized to speak to the press, and he does so by press releases and official statements.
The only person who agreed to speak with Christian was a board member from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and she did so only under condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Everyone assured Christian the conditions of animals in the VU laboratories were at the industry standard, even the anonymous IACUC board member.
People associated with the VU animal testing department cited the threat of activism by the Animal Rights community as a reason for keeping their information under lock and key. But does an institution that receives public funds have the luxury of opacity? The public has a right to knowledge of how its taxpayer dollars are being spent.
In the process of writing his story, an official who refused to identify himself ordered Christian out of a building in which he was taking photographs, even though he legally had the right to be there and take photographs. Researchers were warned about Christian and told not to speak to him.
So why does Vanderbilt not want the public to know what goes on in their laboratories? Are they worried that even if they really were conforming to industry standards for the treatment of their animals (their AW violations says otherwise) that the public would see that even the industry standard is still horrifying.
The truth is there is no way to test on animals that isn’t cruel, horrifying and unnecessary. Laboratories have a vested interest in opacity, as it keeps the public unaware of the callous nature of their experiments. If the public were aware of how their public funds were being spent to torture animals, would they so willingly support Vanderbilt? It’s doubtful.
Any industry that tortures and kills animals will benefit from hiding the details from us, but opacity is a luxury they don’t deserve. And transparency is their responsibility to the public.