The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says it will file a formal complaint based on an eight-month “undercover” investigation at two University of Utah biomedical research facilities.

PETA said its agent, identified only as LZ, gathered video, photos and log entries to record alleged mistreatment of research animals. LZ worked as an animal support technician at the university from Feb. 12 to Oct. 29, and shot “hundreds of hours” of video inside the labs, according to PETA.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that University officials disputed the PETA investigator’s interpretation of what she saw, arguing she does not understand animal research.

"None of the things she alleges are substantive," Tom Parks, the University’s vice president for research told the Tribune. "It's a remarkably banal list of ordinary events in an animal-care facility."

PETA officials will file the complaints with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds much of the University’s research, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group alleges scores of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and other medical research standards by the University’s scientists, animal technicians and research support staff.

The complaints, which involve monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and kittens, rats, mice and frogs.

PETA leaders contend their evidence reveals "flagrant disregard" for the animals' well-being and violations have become "business as usual" at the University.

"The ongoing lack of veterinary care means that animals who were already doomed to live and die in laboratories are suffering much more than they have to," said Kathy Guillermo, PETA's vice president over laboratory investigations.

The group plans to release video images it says show mice dead from neglect, dying mice bloated with ulcerated tumors, rabbits and cats with surgically implanted devices on their heads and spines, and U. lab staff, their faces blurred, casually describing deplorable conditions for the research animals.

"Research is the most heavily regulated use of animals in our society," Parks told the Tribune. "We have four full-time vets who are the ultimate guarantors and experts on care of animals. We have extensive review of protocols by our IACUC, composed of animal-care staff and faculty. We monitor protocols with regular inspections. We require mandatory training of all personnel who work with animals. We follow the highest level of requirements for certification."

Read the full story from the Salt Lake Tribune:

And, here is a commentary by Greg Henderson, editor of Drovers, a sister publication of Dairy Herd Management:

Is it a coincidence that PETA made this announcement just 10 days after the Humane Society of the United States helped force the closure of a packing facility in Vermont? Possibly, but PETA surely hopes the success of the HSUS investigation last week will have some carryover-effect. That, however, is not likely.

That’s because there are virtually no similarities to the HSUS abuse video from the Bushway Packing facility in Vermont, and PETA’s undercover investigation from the University of Utah. The events captured on film at Bushway were indefensible, and they took place at a facility cited three previous times for animal abuse.

The University of Utah research labs, however, are another matter. The labs are highly regulated, and University spokesmen were quick to point out that the PETA agent didn’t understand animal research. Nobody came to the defense of Bushway employees to try to explain away their acts.

While it would support the agenda of both PETA and HSUS to blur the lines between blatant animal abuse and ethical research for medical purposes, let’s hope the media and the public can distinguish between the two. – Greg Henderson, Drovers editor.

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