The reason for the decision would be the rapid reproduction of these animals in the laboratories, which were left empty because of the quarantine of scientists.
It is not just humans who are suffering with the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus. As an investigation by Science revealed, with the increase in cases of Covid-19 worldwide and the implementation of social distancing and self-quarantine in several countries, another species is paying the price: mice.
That’s because hundreds of colonies of laboratory mice are being sacrificed by scientists who can no longer monitor and care for the animals. “This is a difficult situation for everyone, and I assure you that the decision to euthanize animals was not an easy one,” said Peter Smith, associate director of the Animal Resource Center at Yale University in the United States.
The same procedure is being adopted at other North American universities, as the journal’s investigation showed. Eric Hutchinson, director of animal resources research at Johns Hopkins University explained that the team at the institution is already working twice as hard during the pandemic and that killing is essential to preserve the health of employees and animals. “It is dark and sad, but it is something that needs to be done,” commented the expert.
Still, both institutions made a point of highlighting that the animals sacrificed were those that “would be killed anyway”, because, for example, they were not born with the genetic profile required for specific experiments. “But instead of making that decision over 2 to 3 weeks, as researchers normally do, we are asking them to make it in 48 hours,” said Hutchinson.
But not all institutions have this flexibility. Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at the University of Oregon, for example, was told that she should slaughter all mice that were not essential to her research. “I was staring at my mice one by one and deciding who lives and who dies,” said Rauch. “It was very difficult.”
According to scientists, the animals are usually killed with carbon dioxide, but their necks are broken for security reasons. Rauch believes her university is currently at “severity level 3” – if it reaches “level 4”, it will need to restrict its colony to just 10%. “I hope we don’t get there,” she commented.
Meanwhile, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which drew attention to the problem, defined the measures as slaughter. “Why are these animals, even with the experiments being approved by the school supervisory body, now being so easily discarded? Asked Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of the organization.
Hutchinson made a point of saying that neither he nor Johns Hopkins University is forcing researchers to slaughter their mice. “We don’t have [the intention] and we won’t sacrifice animals just to preserve resources,” he noted. “We are just asking researchers to reassess which animals they really need.”
Fortunately, as Science reported, PETA has yet to comment on larger animals, such as cats, dogs or monkeys, being proactively sacrificed. Hutchinson commented that he hopes this is not happening.
According to him, unlike larger animals, rats reproduce quickly and should be used quickly as well. In addition, the expert said that rodents make up about 95% of all animals used in laboratories, consuming more time and money from researchers.