An advocacy group has accused the University of violating federal regulations by using live pigs in its affiliated residency program for emergency medicine, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine called for federal regulators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to look into animal use at the Warren Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital. The PCRM is composed of physicians, dieticians and scientists advocating against animal use in scientific research and in favor of plant-based diets.
The residency program is based at Rhode Island Hospital, and the attending physicians who mentor and train residents are University faculty. The University and Rhode Island Hospital have issued a joint statement that denies any breach of the federal regulation.
“In its review of any use of animals, Rhode Island Hospital abides by all federal regulations and follows a strict set of institutional policies, procedures and protocol. This includes training in advanced lifesaving procedures for the emergency medicine residency program affiliated with Brown’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine,” read the joint statement sent to The Herald by Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark.
John Pippin, the PCRM’s director of academic affairs, told the Associated Press he is confident that the University violated the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act includes a clause stating that research involving animals must involve consideration of “alternatives to any procedure likely to produce pain to or distress in an experimental animal.”
According to Pippin, the University’s use of live pigs in training is unnecessary given modern simulation technologies that can substitute for living animals.
Animal research within the program is regulated by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees at the University and Rhode Island Hospital. Pippin believes these IACUCs have not adequately regulated training methods, the Associated Press reported, while the University and Rhode Island Hospital contend otherwise.
“The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees at Brown and Rhode Island Hospital carefully consider the use of non-animal model alternatives in the approval of all animal use protocols on their respective campuses and employ them in cases when they support scientific and/or academic goals,” the joint statement read.
The University has been fully accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, a private and nonprofit organization that assesses research institutions for human treatment of animals in accordance with the law, according to the AAALAC website.
The PCRM tracks animal use in allopathic and osteopathic emergency medicine residency programs throughout the United States and Canada. Sixteen programs are listed as using animals — including Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center and the Med School. 251 programs are listed as “using only nonanimal methods,” according to the website.
Pippin told the Associated Press he hoped the University would take action on the group’s claims.
The statement from the University and Rhode Island Hospital holds that the institutions will continue to meet legal and ethical standards.
“As partners in biomedical research, teaching and clinical programs, Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital are committed to ensuring the highest ethical standards in the responsible use of animals in the instances they are used for research or for teaching and training current and future medical professionals,” the statement read.