Animal Abuse Using Your Tax Dollars-- Interview with Anthony Bellotti, founder of the White Coat Waste Project
Rosenberg: Several US groups expose inhumane and frivolous animal experiments but your new group White Coat Waste Project specifically focuses on government-funded animal research.
Bellotti: Yes. $12 billion of tax-payer money a year goes to animal experimentation and the government is the largest funder of animal research in the US. Yet the public is largely unaware of the waste, fraud and abuse, not the mention cost. The White Coat Waste Project is a watchdog group exposing what goes on in government’s animal laboratories on the public's dime. If it’s not paid for by your taxes, it’s not part of our mission.
Rosenberg: Do you have first-hand experience with animal research?
Bellotti: Between junior and senior years of high school, in the 1990s, I worked as an intern in an animal lab at a hospital in Manhattan. For seven weeks I witnessed experiments on pigs, beagles, rats, monkeys and more. I went through what I think a lot of people go through when they encounter animal research. First, you experience "shock and awe" at what is actually permitted and legal. I remember thinking, this is one of the good labs--I hate to think what the bad labs are doing. Then you kind of pull back within yourself and think, "I don't want to make waves." Finally, you decide you will fight back and speak out which is why I founded White Coat Waste Project.
Rosenberg: Exposing animal research is a tough mission. Twenty years ago, we heard of lab break-ins and rescues but today research facilities are triple fortified and some have been put underground. The other tough part is--animal research is always given a scientific mystique. The public is told we can't judge it but it is benefiting us.
Bellotti: Right--"we know how to spend your money better than you do" is the attitude. Yet the public has the right to know what is done with a staggering amount of its money--and we will soon be launching "Waste of the Week" to show appalling examples of government waste. What the government spends on animal research and what experiments it funds are public information and we will soon be publicizing it.
Rosenberg: Why does cruel and stupid government-funded research persist? For over 30 years, the University of Minnesota's to Marilyn Carroll has addicted animals to street drugs. $3.6 million of our tax dollars in the last decade went to studying how heroin, crystal meth and Angel Dust affect menstruating monkeys. No tax-payers or scientists who aren’t in on the money could defend this kind of waste.
Bellotti: What happens is the research grows, becomes entrenched and produces its own constituents and lobbyists. The universities and researchers who get this money think its their not ours and that they are entitled to it. There are huge incentives and the programs grow bigger each year.
Rosenberg: Sounds like scientific "pork"!
Bellotti: Yes. The universities and researchers are given a blank check and do not even have to defend the research or cite anything of value it has produced. For years, mice were consider miniature human beings and now we know that most mouse-based research has no applicability to humans and has been pretty worthless.
Rosenberg: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins always professes his spirituality and God-centeredness. Yet millions of animal die under his watch. NIH's new brain initiative will only increase the toll.