Trump’s EPA Orders Last-Minute Pardon to Agency’s Research Bunnies

Hours before the Inauguration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief, Andrew Wheeler issued a last-minute reprieve and directed the retirement of the last-remaining rabbits used for experiments at Environmental Protection Agency labs in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

An agency memo dated Wednesday says the EPA will now take steps to carry out that process.

“We are aware that other federal agencies have worked with nonprofit institutions to care for animals after their use in laboratories. A first step in exploring potential options would likely be to consult with other parts of the federal government that have accomplished similar animal retirement efforts,” wrote Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and David Dunlap, deputy assistant administrator at the Office of Research and Development.

According to The Washington Times, “some of the bunnies involved in the EPA research were being used to produce ejaculate for study.”

Female rabbits were kept nearby to help males produce usable ejaculate, according to the White Coat Waste Project, which has pushed to rein in government testing using animals.”

“Some the rabbits have been kept at the EPA for nearly a decade. But the bunnies haven’t been given the opportunity to be adopted into a home after they were no longer ‘useful’ as sperm machines,” White Coat Waste discovered.

White Coat’s policy team has been working with Congress and EPA leadership and finally met with Mr. Wheeler at EPA headquarters to retire the rabbits.

“We’re proud to have worked with Andrew Wheeler and his colleagues to secure this last-minute pardon for survivors of EPA’s taxpayer-funded animal tests,” said Anthony Bellotti, the group’s president. “Mr. Wheeler’s directive to retire the last of the bunnies in the EPA’s taxpayer-funded labs cements his legacy as a policy pioneer who made the once-lofty goal of ending wasteful and cruel taxpayer-funded animal tests a reality.”

The EPA became the first agency ever to set a benchmark and timeline for the complete phase-out of taxpayer-funded animal testing. The original set goal was to end the animal testing by 2035.

Mr. Bellotti called Wheeler’s action the “gold standard” for other federal agencies to match.

A poll of over 1,000 taxpayers conducted in November 2020 by Lincoln Park Strategies finds 70 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans support the EPA retiring animals used in labs.

The EPA officials said rabbit experimentation at the agency was already on the decline, thanks to new chemical testing methods.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met and married an American journalist and moved to D.C. from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A. in Graphics, Media, and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Young gray-and-white rabbit sitting on table eating grass

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