As many as 160 rats and mice that were illegally bred and used for unauthorised experimentation have been rescued from the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry.
The animals were removed from the JIPMER animal facility Thursday, and handed over to animal rights organisation PETA India for rehabilitation in a sanctuary with the necessary enrichment and veterinary services they need.
The rescue was approved by central regulatory body, Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) after PETA India alerted it to gross violations of animal protection laws at the medical institute. In response, CPCSEA sent a show cause notice to JIPMER demanding that the illegal experiments be stopped immediately and warning of legal action. PETA India then offered CPCSEA and JIPMER permanent rehabilitation of and lifelong care for the animals at a suitable sanctuary.
“While these animals have been spared a lifetime of misery and pain in a laboratory, there’s still work to be done to keep more animals out of experimenters’ hands,” says PETA India Science Policy Advisor Dr Ankita Pandey.
“We hope this incident encourages institutes across India to use only non-animal methods of experimentation and teaching,” she stated.
As per a whistle-blower complaint received by PETA India, the rescued rats and mice were being kept in miserable conditions at JIPMER – confined to severely crowded boxes and forced to eat food contaminated with fungus – in violation of CPCSEA regulations and guidelines. The animals were also reportedly bred to overpopulation, and students were allegedly forced to perform experiments on them solely to reduce their numbers.
According to various research publications by JIPMER in the last decade, the animals were subjected to painful experiments in which they were forced to consume drugs and chemicals, deliberately infected with diseases, and subjected to mutilating procedures, after which they were ultimately killed, PETA India noted.
In its letter to CPCSEA, PETA India noted that JIPMER had not renewed its registration licence since 2012, yet continued to breed and conduct experiments on rats and mice and fund illegal experiments, even after CPCSEA cancelled its registration on 5 May 2022. The group pointed out that this is a direct violation of the Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998, which prohibit breeding and experimenting on animals without CPCSEA registration.
In its complaint, PETA India submitted evidence of cruelty and illegal activities at JIPMER, including photographs, Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC) circulars inviting research proposals using animals, minutes of IAEC meetings during which illegal animal experiments were approved, memorandums releasing research grants to support proposals involving animal experiments, and published research papers that discuss experiments conducted on animals by the institute in the past decade.