The United States Department of Agriculture fined the University of Wisconsin-Madison $35,286 for citations issued after a four year investigation into the treatment of animal test subjects in campus labs. The fine is “one of the largest fines ever assessed against an animal laboratory,” said Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations department at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Eight years ago, while a student at the University of Connecticut, Goodman led numerous protests against UConn’s Health Center for its animal research. (At the university’s 125th anniversary celebration, Goodman chained himself to an iron fence). In 2009, PETA’s undercover investigation captured (on video) the University of Utah violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. The USDA gave an official warning. If caught again, the university will face $10,000 in fines. Similar undercover videos shot at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Colorado, and University of Michigan, are posted on the PETA website.
The USDA does not attribute monetary amounts to specific citations, nor does it divulge its specific formula for calculating a fine. (UW-Madison believes the larger fine relates to the size of the institution.) Seven citations were issued to UW-Madison including penalties for expired drugs, peeling paint, a broken light fixture, and a lack of communication between researchers and veterinarians. Two citations directly affected animal welfare (one of the animals recovered fully). UW-Madison should be able to pay the fines. The university received more than $5.4 million from the National Institutes of Health in 2011, for a research category called Stem Cell Research-Embryonic Human. And the university’s Waisman Biomanufacturing facility just received a $1.8 million annual contract from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to grow stem cells for research and clinical trials.