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

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Update: October 28, 2021 Farms to Grow, a national advocacy group for Black and other underserved minority farmers, has joined PETA in writing to the USDA and agricultural checkoff boards to demand that farmers’ hard-earned money stop being used to fund animal experiments.

“It … defies logic that these tests—in which animals have been beheaded for blueberries, mutilated for mangoes, and suffocated for soybeans—would purport to help promote those agricultural products, since the majority of consumers don’t support animal cruelty. Conducting these tests is a horrible marketing strategy that does a disservice to farmers, consumers, and animals.” —Gail P. Myers, Ph.D., Cofounder, Farms to Grow

Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), another national advocacy group for Black farmers, also joined PETA in writing to the USDA and agricultural checkoff boards.

“Many farmers in today’s economy are struggling. They don’t need barbaric tests on animals to sell their agricultural commodities. Rather, they need economic relief from inflated assessment fees that are wasted on worthless experiments on animals. We are firmly against taxing farmers to fund needless and senseless animal tests.” —Jillian Hishaw, Esq. LL.M (Agricultural Law), Founding Director, F.A.R.M.S.

Take action below to add your voice to ours.

Update: January 28, 2021
Victory! After hearing from PETA and more than 85,000 compassionate supporters, the Hass Avocado Board (HAB)—one of the major agricultural commodity research and promotion (R&P) boards that’s overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture—has adopted a new public policy stating that it “does not support, fund, or conduct animal research.” HAB previously sponsored experiments on animals in a purported attempt to make dubious health claims for marketing avocados to consumers. For instance, HAB funded an experiment in which mice were repeatedly force-fed an avocado ingredient, starved for eight hours, injected with glucose and insulin, bled from their tails, killed by suffocation, and then drained of their blood and dissected.

It’s time that all the agricultural commodity R&P boards followed HAB’s lead to focus exclusively on human-relevant research.

Update: October 26, 2020
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada is urging Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to provide a timeline for ending the use of mandatory annual fees paid by farmers to fund "cruel and inefficient" animal experiments commissioned by agricultural commodity research and promotion (R&P) boards, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees. Regarding these tests—which are purportedly funded to make dubious human health claims about blueberries, watermelons, and other common foods—Titus writes in her letter to Perdue, "In light of the incongruity between the cruelty of these experiments and the commodities at study, the R&P boards should instead look to utilize new, innovative research technologies instead of wasting farmers' dollars on painful and ineffective animal experimentation."

Original post:

Experimenters are douching, poisoning, force-feeding, starving, radiating, bleeding, suffocating, beheading, and dissecting animals purportedly to use health claims 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 abolish what effectively amounts to a draconian “tax” on farmers who pay for these cruel tests and to end this senseless bloodshed. (In 2020, we sent a similar letter to his predecessor, Sonny Perdue.)

rat in lab

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 farmers such as agricultural commodity producers, handlers, processers, importers, and others—totaled $885 million in 2016 alone, according to the 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, some of the babies were killed, the remaining babies were fed a high-fat diet, mice were starved, mice were 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 moms' and babies' necks were broken 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.

These agricultural products include commonplace items 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 yield human-relevant results.

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

After discussions with PETA, dozens of major food and beverage manufacturers have established policies against animal testing and it's time for the USDA to do the same.

PETA's letter to Perdue urges the USDA to prohibit the assessment fees paid by farmers from going toward animal experiments.

"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 translate to useful results for humans," the letter says.

Rats are as capable of thinking about things and figuring them out as dogs. They also have clearly demonstrated empathy. In one ethically questionable 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 supports speciesism—the belief that humans are inherently superior to other animals based solely on species membership.

photo of mouse in cage with text that says "he's an individual, not lab equipment"

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 animal testing that's inhumane and junk science.

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

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

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