Animals Beheaded for Blueberries? USDA Farmer 'Tax' Funds Cruel Tests

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Experimenters are douching, poisoning, force-feeding, starving, radiating, bleeding, suffocating, beheading, and dissecting animals, purportedly to establish health claims used to market blueberries, watermelons, and other common foods to consumers. PETA has fired off a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to end this senseless cruelty and abolish what effectively amounts to a draconian tax on farmers to pay for these cruel tests. (In 2020, we sent a similar letter to his predecessor, Sonny Perdue.)

Funding for these worthless and deadly experiments comes from a portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual fees that farmers are required to pay to agricultural commodity research and promotion (R&P) boards, whose boards of directors are appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These fees—levied on agricultural commodity producers, handlers, processers, importers, and others—totaled $885 million in 2016 alone, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Many of the 21 R&P boards overseen by the USDA waste some of these fees paid by farmers on horrific experiments on animals for marketing agricultural commodities. Here are just a few:

  • The Mushroom Council bankrolled an experiment in which pigs were fed white button mushrooms, their anuses were repeatedly poked, their blood was taken, and they were killed and dissected.

  • The National Processed Raspberry Council funded an experiment in which mice mated, the vaginas of the females were swabbed, the mice were fed a high-fat diet with an ingredient common in grapes and raspberries, and some of the babies were killed. The remaining babies were fed a high-fat diet. Mice were starved, injected with glucose, their blood was repeatedly taken, they were put in a 39.2-degree room for six hours, a thermometer was repeatedly shoved into their rectums, the mothers’ and babies’ necks were broken in order to kill them, and they were dissected.

  • The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council funded an experiment in which experimenters fed rats strawberries or blueberries, forced them to perform a series of stress-inducing psychomotor and cognitive tests (including grabbing wires while suspended, walking and balancing on accelerating rotating rods, and swimming in a maze), repeatedly injected them with a chemical, and killed and dissected them. Five rats were killed before the end of experiment because of excessive weight loss, likely from stress.

More than 2,600 sensitive and intelligent mice, rats, and pigs were used in harmful and invasive tests funded by agricultural commodity R&P boards between 2015 and 2019.

The results of these tests were used to market commonplace agricultural products, such as mushrooms, blueberries, and watermelons, which have a long and safe history of human consumption. Instead of torturing animals in crude experiments, researchers could have pursued safe and effective human studies and other advanced, non-animal methods, which would have yielded human-relevant results.

These animal tests are neither applicable to humans nor required by law. Animals are scientifically unfit for human food research, in part because of the vast physiological differences between species.

Following discussions with PETA, the Hass Avocado Board, which is a major R&P board, adopted a public policy banning the funding and conducting of animal tests, as have dozens of major food and beverage manufacturers. It’s time for the USDA and the R&P boards to do the same.

PETA’s letter to Vilsack urges the USDA to prohibit the assessment fees paid by farmers from going toward animal experiments:

We want to emphasize again that America’s farmers deserve better than to be ripped off by an exorbitant assessment fee, part of which is used by R&P boards to fund crude, wasteful, and misleading experiments on animals that don’t yield useful results for humans.

Rats are notably intelligent individuals capable of problem-solving. They have also clearly demonstrated empathy. In one study, the vast majority of the rats tested chose to help another rat who was being forced to tread water, even when they were offered the opportunity to help themselves to a chocolate treat instead. Rats can also recognize expressions of pain on other rats’ faces and react to them. Animals are not laboratory equipment, and treating them as such is an example of speciesism—the belief that humans are inherently superior to other animals based solely on species membership.

Please take action and help PETA keep up the pressure on the USDA and the R&P boards to prohibit gouging farmers with fees that fund inhumane, junk-science animal tests.

You can do so by sending polite comments to the following person:

Ramon Ojeda
Executive Director
National Mango Board
[email protected]

Bart Minor
Mushroom Council
[email protected]

Mark Arney
Executive Director
National Watermelon Promotion Board
[email protected]

Tim Lust
United Sorghum Checkoff Program
[email protected]

Kasey Cronquist
US Highbush Blueberry Council
[email protected]

Henry Bierlink
Executive Director
Washington Red Raspberry Commission
[email protected]

Feel free to use our talking points (but remember that using your own words is always more effective):

  • Please adopt a public policy that bans the conducting, funding, and commissioning of all animal tests. Results from these animal experiments are inaccurate because there are drastic physiological differences between humans and other species.
  • Dozens of major food and beverage manufacturers have already prohibited animal testing to establish human health claims for marketing products and ingredients.
  • Mandatory assessment fees paid by farmers shouldn’t be used to fund animal tests that aren’t explicitly required by law.

Then, use the form below to contact other R&P boards and the USDA.

After You Take Action Below, Please Visit Our Action Center Page to Do More

Mushroom Council
Highbush Blueberry Council
National Watermelon Promotion Board
United Soybean Board
Washington Red Raspberry Commission
United Soybean Board
United Soybean Board

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