Santa Cruz Biotechnology is one of the world’s largest antibody providers in the world – and they’re now under a government animal welfare investigation after thousands of animals went “inexplicably” missing from their facilities.
To me, one of the saddest things about science is the fact that we still rely on the (unwilling) sacrifice of animals so much. The fact that some research facilities don’t respect these animals is simply disgusting. In July 2015 Santa Cruz Biotechnology owned 2,471 rabbits and 3,202 goats. Now, all the animals have vanished without a trace according to a federal investigation from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). When you consider that the company is already the subject of three animal-welfare complaints filed by the USDA for mistreating goats, the situation becomes even more worrying. The agency has reported 31 alleged violations by the company.
There’s no information as to what happened to the animals for now, and we’ll have to wait until the April 5 hearing. However, what seems likely is the company just wanted to get rid of its entire animal inventory – basically destroying evidence. How they disposed of the goats remains to be discovered.
Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group in Washington DC, suspects that the animals were killed. The goats were bred for biological research, and finding a buyer for such a large stock of animals on such short notice seems unlikely. However, this should not sway the legal proceedings over whether the company violated the Animal Welfare Act. If anything, it should be interpreted as a gesture of defiance and an attempt to hinder the investigation.
David Favre, an expert in animal-welfare law at Michigan State University in East Lansing is unhappy with the USDA’s decision to delay the investigation until April. The department’s “whole attitude is ‘we’ll give them time to fix it rather than impose punishment’,” Favre says. “There’s no excuse for a company that size not to be able to comply with the Animal Welfare Act.”
While Santa Cruz Biotechnology is a major supplier of research materials, but there are hundreds of other suppliers who (hopefully) respect animal welfare. This probably won’t affect science at all – at most, it would be a hindrance for some labs who will have to find a new provider.