PETA Calls on Science-Fair to End Use of Animals in Student Projects

Norfolk, Va. (RPRN) 03/24/09 — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling on Intel Corp. and the Society for Science and the Public (SSP) to enact a policy that would ban the use of animals in experiments during this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)—except when tests are non-invasive, nonfatal, cage-free, nonharmful, and allow the animals to reside in their natural habitats. Sponsored by Intel Corp. and managed by the SSP, the ISEF, which will be held this year from May 10–16, invites students from around the world to display their science-fair projects and compete for prizes.

The ISEF allows high school students to conduct invasive and harmful experiments on animals, including those that fall under U.S. Department of Agriculture pain category level D (which involves procedures that cause animals to “develop discernable clinical signs indicating pain, distress, or significant physiological changes …”). In a review of student projects that were recently displayed at the ISEF, PETA documented experiments that involved inflicting brain injuries on rats by blocking the animal’s main artery and depriving the brain of blood; repeatedly injecting mice with a common chemical pollutant to determine the damage done to cells; inducing strokes in mice and then cutting the animals open to examine nerve endings; and addicting animals to cocaine.

SSP President Elizabeth Marincola responded to PETA’s request by stating that SSP will continue to allow students to conduct animal experiments “regardless of the species involved, the methods used, the pain prevention employed ….” PETA charges that this is an irresponsible position given that high school students are the ones conducting these experiments and that nearly 30,000 vertebrate animals were used in the experiments in the last year alone. PETA also notes that many of these students have not yet reached an age at which it’s legal for them to smoke, drink, or even drive, yet SSP allows them to participate in experiments that involve inflicting severe brain injuries on animals.

Dr. F. Barbara Orlans of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University has spoken out against students’ use of animals in science-fair projects, writing, “[P]romoting teenage animal surgery or induction of painful pathological conditions fosters an improper regard for animal life and an unbalanced view of biology that will rebound adversely when the next generation of scientists comes of age.” Orlans continues, “[I]t can be emotionally upsetting for youngsters to participate in harming or killing animals; even worse, it may be emotionally desensitizing or hardening to immature minds.”

In line with PETA’s recommendations, some school districts have implemented policies that restrict the use of animals. In its “Requirements and Rules for the Use of Animals,” the Marin County Office of Education states, “The SRC [scientific review committee] has concluded that research involving nonhuman vertebrate animals is generally not appropriate …. The only projects that will be considered for grades 7–12 are those limited to the observation of vertebrate animals in their natural habitat, or in other environments not controlled or manipulated by the student …. In all cases, the review committee must be satisfied that the project will not result in discomfort, pain, or other adverse effects on the animals’ health or well being.” [emphasis in original]

For more information about PETA’s efforts to end the use of animals at the Intel ISEF, please visit PETA.org.