An animal-rights group of lawyers sent a letter today to Johns Hopkins' medical school dean demanding an end to operating on live pigs as part of surgical training. Here's the text of the letter:

December 11, 2007
Edward D. Miller, M.D., Dean


Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

733 North Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Dear Dean Miller:

I am writing on behalf of the National Center for Animal Law. We strongly urge you to discontinue the use of live pigs in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine third year surgery course, and all other use of live animals in your curriculum, on legal, scientific, and ethical grounds. Your medical school is one of only ten in the country, out of a total of one hundred twenty-six, that still use live animals for educational purposes.  We hope you will join the vast majority of schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, who have determined that students earn at least equal, if not better, training without the use of live animals in the classroom.                                                                   

I am sure you are aware of the excellent alternatives that are widely available for medical training.   These humane alternatives are not only great teaching tools, most medical students also prefer them. In 2007, the American Medical Student Association ("AMSA") passed a resolution amending its "Principles Regarding Vivisection in Medical Education" to strongly encourage the replacement of animal laboratories with non-animal alternatives in medical education. The AMSA resolution demonstrates that medical students are increasingly aware of the ethical problems surrounding the use of live animals as teaching tools. In order to meet the ethical and educational needs of your students, we encourage Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to explore these alternatives as a means of removing live animals from its classrooms.  Further, the use of animals in classrooms violates the spirit and letter of the Federal Animal Welfare Act ("AWA"). Medical schools are included in the definition of "research facility" in the AWA, and are therefore subject to its provisions.  Further, the live animals used by your institution's classrooms come within the protection of that statute, which expressly defines protected "animals" to include "any live or dead dog, cat, monkey (nonhuman primate mammal), guinea pig, hamster, rabbit or such other warm blooded animal . . .  intended for use, for research, testing, experimentation, or exhibition purposes, or as a pet." The Federal statute requires minimization of pain and distress to the subject animal and the use of non-animal alternatives when possible. In light of the availability of superior, non-animal alternative technologies in medical school education, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine arguably violates the principles set forth in the AWA by using pigs in its classrooms. 

Moreover, the use of live animals results in the suffering of sentient beings. Courts have become increasingly aware of such ethical issues and are more often willing to allow legal challenges to unnecessary animal suffering. For instance, a Federal District Court has ruled that a college psychology student had constitutional standing to challenge the exclusion of laboratory rats, birds and mice from the protection of the AWA, because she asserted emotional and aesthetic injury observing their inhumane living conditions. The court noted that the student could bring a lawsuit, "given the express purpose of the AWA to ensure the humane treatment of animals." Alternatives Research & Development Foundation, et al. v. Glickman, 101 F. Supp. 2d. 7 (D.D.C. 2000).

As a representative of attorneys across the nation who care about the humane treatment of animals, as well as their legal protections, I strongly urge you to immediately cease using live animals as teaching tools in order to comply with the terms of the AWA, to modernize your curricula, and to be responsive to the mission and sentiments of your students.

Most Sincerely,

Laura Ireland Moore

Executive Director, National Center for Animal Law