Experiments on dogs were considered, but rodents were used instead, which would be no “victory” even if White Coat Waste Project influenced the decision
NORTH BETHESDA, Maryland––The right-leaning anti-vivisection organization White Coat Waste Project has finally produced a “smoking gun” document in which National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci, 81, discusses experimentation on beagles––but the “gun” is neither pointed nor blowing smoke in quite the same direction that White Coat Waste Project has alleged since August 11, 2021.
On the contrary, the Fauci document, a letter responding to questions from Iowa U.S. Senator Joni K. Ernst, a Republican, suggests––in combination with other documents previously obtained and released by White Coat Waste Project––that it is the White Coast Waste Project itself and Senator Ernst who are blowing the most smoke.
Frequent allegations, shy on evidence
White Coat Waste Project has since August 11, 2021 issued frequent flamboyant appeals and media releases associating Fauci, heading the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases since 1984, with a variety of cruel and gruesome experiments on beagles and monkeys.
Some of those experiments were actually funded by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases; some not.
ANIMALS 24-7, further investigating each new set of allegations as White Coat Waste Project raises them, has repeatedly delayed reporting about most of them while seeking documentation that Fauci had direct involvement in the experiments, for instance by co-authoring related scientific articles, personally reviewing the research protocols, signing off on the legally required Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee reviews, or signing off on detailed budgets.
Leishmaniasis experiments in Tunisia
The initial White Coast Waste Project allegations about Fauci pertained to leishmaniasis experiments done on beagles in Tunisia.
ANIMALS 24-7 literature searches on Fauci and leishmaniasis found his name in the footnotes of several papers, all of them decades old, always in connection with non-animal-based research on peripheral subjects, and/or in general statements about the seriousness of leishmaniasis as a public health concern.
As the Washington Post exposed at length on November 19, 2021, neither Fauci himself nor the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases ever had anything to do with the Tunisian leishmaniasis experiments.
The National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases was erroneously linked to the experiments by a typographical error in a third-party publication.
Minimal involvement in animal studies
Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Beth Reinhard went on to explore the relationship between Fauci as “a controversial figure during the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
Abutaleb and Reinhard cited Fauci’s “public clashes with [former] President Donald Trump over Fauci’s support for masks and opposition to unproven cures,” and the history of White Coat Waste Project founder Anthony Bellotti as “a seasoned Republican operative” who previously directed “campaigns to end public funding for Planned Parenthood, mobilize opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and pass a California ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage.”
Fauci papers barely reference animal studies
That made Fauci a target of convenience, but reality appears to be that Fauci, an immunologist, has had little if any direct involvement in animal research at any point in his career.
Focused on HIV/AIDS studies for more than two decades, Fauci was from 1983 to 2002 “the 13th most-cited scientist among the 2.5 to 3.0 million authors in all disciplines throughout the world who published articles in scientific journals,” according to the Institute for Scientific Information.
But Fauci’s most cited dozen articles concern research on human subjects and barely reference animal studies.
“Proposing to use a guinea pig model”
In recent years Fauci has been preoccupied with his roles on the White House Coronavirus Task Force under former U.S. President Donald Trump, and as Chief Medical Advisor to the President under current U.S. President Joe Biden.
Emailed White Coat Waste Project senior vice president for advocacy and public policy Justin Goodman to ANIMALS 24-7 on July 5, 2022, “Following White Coat Waste Project’s latest #BeagleGate investigation and leadership from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dr. Fauci has confirmed that his National Institutes of Health division has canceled plans to fund cruel, wasteful and unnecessary tests on puppies.
“As we first exposed in May 2022 through documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests,” Goodman asserted, “Fauci’s NIAID planned to spend $1.8 million in taxpayer funds for a series of five tests on dogs—including puppies as young as six months old—to study a new drug to treat seasonal allergies.”
But the document that White Coat Waste Project obtained and posted in May 2022, entitled “SBIR Contract 75N93021C00044 Inimmune Corporation Phase II,” actually stated that “Inimmune is proposing to use an established guinea pig model of allergic rhinitis to obtain proof of concept of INI-2004 efficacy in a second animal species. The reasons for considering the guinea pig model instead of the dog model are: allergic dog availability, time and costs.”
“Canceling” tests that were never scheduled
In other words, the Inimmune Corporation had already considered but rejected using beagles, or any other dogs, in the experiment funded by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases before White Coat Waste Project “exposed” anything about it.
‘After our investigation exposed that the dog testing was wasteful and unnecessary,” Goodman continued, restating the conclusion that Inimmune Corporation had already reached, “Senator Ernst demanded answers from Fauci. In his recent written response to Sen. Ernst, he confirmed that all of the dog tests have been canceled.”
Which was no news, but even if it had been, that guinea pigs were used instead of dogs would not have been a “victory” for animal advocates concerned about all animals, not just a chosen few.
Indeed, Goodman himself, in his previous capacity as associate supervisor for research for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), advanced the creed stated repeatedly by PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk that, “In their capacity to suffer, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”
What Fauci knew and when
Echoing the White Coat Waste Project claims, U.S. Senator Joni K. Ernst on June 2, 2022 at last succeeded in obtaining a document detailing what Fauci knew and when, because Fauci had no choice but to respond to her.
But what Fauci told her did not support the White Coat Waste Project allegations.
Acknowledged Fauci, “In fiscal year 2021, the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases awarded a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research contract to Inimmune Corporation to develop a novel intranasal treatment for allergic rhinitis, which is also known as hay fever. Allergic rhinitis is estimated to affect approximately 60 million people in the U.S.,” Fauci said, “and many patients do not achieve adequate relief with available medications, resulting in substantial social and economic burdens.
“Although the contract to Inimmune Corporation proposed the use of murine and canine preclinical animal models, after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], the company elected to proceed using two rodent models only. No experiments utilizing the canine model are being conducted under this contract.”
Non-animal models not allowed for this type of test
In other words, there were never any actual dog tests to be cancelled. The possibility that dogs might he used, though suggested by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, was never more than hypothetical.
Fauci went on to stipulate, in response to further questions from Ernst, that “No private sources will provide funds for the research conducted under this contract to Inimmune Corporation,” and that “No funding will be provided to China or China-based investigators or research institutions.”
Ernst asked, “What would the cost be to taxpayers if a non-animal testing model was used?”
Responded Fauci, “FDA requires testing in animal models to demonstrate preclinical safety and efficacy to move a candidate toward clinical testing with the eventual goal of licensure. In this case, Inimmune Corporation will use rodent models.”
Senator did not understand the protocol
Continued Ernst, “The FDA has stated dog testing is not mandated for human drugs. Did National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease consult with the FDA to specifically discuss whether dog testing was required? Did NIAID propose the use of any alternatives to dog or other animal testing?”
Explained Fauci “The sponsor of a potential clinical candidate is responsible for consulting with FDA. Since Inimmune Corporation, not NIAID, is the sponsor in this case, it was the company’s responsibility to consult with FDA. As noted above, the company did consult with FDA and ultimately decided not to proceed with utilizing the canine model.
“The initial contract proposal, including the description of use of the animal models, was rigorously evaluated by an independent panel of experts,” Fauci said.
“All research projects submitted to the National Institutes of Health are carefully evaluated during peer review to determine if an alternative method could effectively be used in place of animals, and if the applicants have appropriately determined and justified the number of animals required to conduct the research.”
Fauci went on to outline to Ernst the respective roles and jurisdictions of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease, the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care & Use of Laboratory Animals, the U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization & Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research and Training, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.
Fauci then signed his full name: Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
This did not discourage Ernst from alleging, in a statement amplified by White Coat Waste Project, that “Dr. Fauci was barking up the wrong tree when he decided to use government dollars on dog testing,” never mind that he made no such decision, or that it was never his decision to make.
Ernst overlooked 58,511 dogs who were actually used in real experiments
“Thankfully, after voicing our concerns and shining a light on these heinous tactics,” Ernst fulminated on, “taxpayers can rest easy knowing their hard-earned money is not going towards dog abuse.”
In declaring victory over the non-use of dogs in experiments that were never more than hypothetical to begin with, Ernst overlooked that 58,511 dogs were used in federally funded experiments in fiscal year 2019, the most recent year for which the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has published a complete summary of laboratory animal use reports.
Very likely, since dogs are known to be vulnerable to COVID-19, the number of dogs used in U.S. laboratories increased in fiscal years 2020, 2021 and the just ended fiscal year 2022.
Su Libby says
Thank you for essentially outing the White Coat Waste Project senior staff as right-wing Republican operatives who have been involved in fighting against many wonderful social programs. The involvement of Senator Joni Ernst speaks volumes.
Thank you for this thought -provoking article. I believe animals need all of the friends they can get, and I’m not one to say that those who disagree with me politically can’t care about or advocate on behalf of animals. That said, in recent years White Coat Waste Project has been appealing to the worst element–manic Trumpers who just want to “own the libs” and attack anyone who doesn’t share their enthusiasm for their idol.
This is a policy that is ripe for catastrophic failure, because it’s NOT about the animals. You can be assured that if an animal experimenter was favored by Trump, they would be defending him or her and smearing anti-vivisectionists as “crazy liberals” or whatever. Just look at how Trump’s adult sons mow down exotic animals for fun and trophies, no criticism there from his voters.