In a big win for golden retrievers, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is shutting down a controversial program in which it was breeding the dogs for muscular dystrophy experiments.
According to a release by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the move follows two-and-a-half years of protests by hundreds of thousands of activists, lawsuits, call-ins, and testimonials from scientists and people with MD, such as Johnathon Byrne, who was detained by TAMU for asking to see the dogs and has filed a lawsuit for violating his civil rights.
The university's program has also been under fire from 500 physicians and many scientists.
An online petition signed by more than 200,000 people called for a halt to the taxpayer-funded research project, arguing that it was cruel and scientifically useless.
The experimentation is led by Dr. Joseph Kornegay, in which dogs were bred to develop different types of muscular dystrophy, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a particularly severe form that causes muscle wasting and weakness. PETA's list of the unfortunate effects on the dogs includes inability to walk or swallow.
"Studies with these dogs haven't led to a cure or even a treatment to reverse disease symptoms, even after experimenting for 30 years," the petition said.
The issue has drawn worldwide media attention as well as pleas from celebrities like Paul McCartney who wrote a letter to Texas A&M's president in June, urging them to stop the experiments. Kinda hard to say no to a Beatle.
Even as university officials were stating that the school wasn't breeding dogs, as many as 100 puppies were born in the campus laboratory.
"A university that breeds and tortures golden retrievers apparently has no problem lying about what it's doing," says PETA VP of Laboratory Investigations Alka Chandna. "Ending the breeding of these dogs is a first step — now, Texas A&M must stop tormenting them and release the few remaining ones to decent homes."
The university issued statements that the dogs were "already affected [with canine muscular dystrophy]," despite evidence to the contrary that PETA collected from Kornegay's publications and documents from the university.
TAMU also censored messages on its Facebook page. The school used a filter that automatically deleted posts and comments if they contained words such as PETA, cruelty, and lab, until PETA filed a lawsuit to restore the First Amendment rights of people who wanted to comment.
On September 10, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler pledged to cut back on animal testing of chemicals, with a goal of eliminating all routine safety tests on mammals by 2035.
The current trend with drug and disease testing is to replace animals with more modern methods including lab-grown muscle tissue.