PETA to run ad in Baltimore challenging animal testing

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans to run an ad in Baltimore Tuesday evening showing what it’s like for animals used in medical experiments, but the animal will be a teddy bear.

PETA, known for graphic billboards and stunts to highlight animal cruelty, said a real animal would be a no-no during prime time and on social media so the stuffed version will be seen in the ad, airing during the hit NBC show “This is Us.”

The teddy bear will be taken into a laboratory, strapped down, injected with chemical, cut open, killed and thrown away.

The animal rights group is targeting the Baltimore market because it is home to Johns Hopkins University, a frequent PETA target for its use of animals in research.

"Baltimore residents deserve to know what's happening to animals in their own community under the guise of 'science,'" said Kathy Guillermo, PETA senior vice president, in a statement. "If animals were burned, poisoned, crippled or blinded outside a laboratory, it would warrant cruelty-to-animals charges, yet no experiment — no matter how painful or useless — is illegal."

The aim is to pressure authorities to reduce and improve treatment use of animals at Johns Hopkins and other research institutions that receive the most funding from the National Institutes of Health. PETA plans to run the ads in other markets.

Animal testing, the group notes, often fails to show whether drugs are safe and effective in humans.

Proponents of testing have argued that other means, such as computer models and human cell-based methods, are not yet proven stand-ins for animals. Animal testing is also still required by law for new pharmaceuticals and some chemicals.

Audrey Huang, a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that animal research is vital to progress against disease and understanding of human development, and often also benefits domestic animals.

“Almost every medical advance — from polio vaccines, insulin therapy of diabetes, and cancer therapy to organ transplants and open heart surgery — either would not be available today or would not be as far along in development without the help of animal models of disease,” she said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun. “And to my knowledge, no teddy bears have been used in this way at Johns Hopkins.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that more than 792,168 animals were used in research in fiscal 2017, including 41,121 in Maryland. They included dogs, cats, rabbits, primates, some farm animals and rodents, though not the rats and mice most commonly used, including at Hopkins. Hopkins has reported that it used 49 dogs last year, down from 493 in 2005.

The Maryland General Assembly passed a law earlier this year called the Beagle Freedom Bill that requires local institutions to take reasonable steps to adopt out cats and dogs used in research.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mercohn

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