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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hands-Off Sales Demos

Piglet You may remember the outcry last year when a salesman at the renowned Cleveland Clinic deliberately induced a brain aneurysm in a live dog to demonstrate how a medical device worked. Several people watched and even tried their hand at the procedure, and then the dog was killed—all for a sales gimmick. The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigated and the Cleveland Clinic rebuked the doctor involved, but there was nothing in federal law to prohibit such procedures.

Now, it’s happened again, or at least was scheduled to happen. Covidien Electrosurgery had planned a “Hands-On Pig Lab” to be held during the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists conference this week in Colorado—showing off the company’s new surgical tools by mutilating live pigs. According to Farm Sanctuary, the cruel marketing scheme has been canceled and will no longer take place during this week’s conference, but may have been simply postponed or relocated.

We shouldn’t have to wonder whether live animals will be purposely maimed and disfigured for a sales pitch masquerading as a training exercise. Congress should have dealt with this issue, and it had the perfect opportunity to do so.

In the wake of the Cleveland Clinic scandal, Congressmen Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the Animal Welfare Accountability Improvement Act, H.R. 2193, seeking to upgrade the penalties for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and also to prohibit the use of animals for marketing medical devices. And when the House of Representatives considered its version of the Farm Bill last summer, lawmakers approved an amendment by Congressmen Israel and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) to fold these provisions into the massive agricultural bill.

Sadly, when a House and Senate conference committee ironed out the final bill, they jettisoned the live animal marketing ban. The final Farm Bill that was enacted this year included several great animal welfare provisions—including a core element from H.R. 2193 which increased the Animal Welfare Act penalties for the first time in two decades—but there was no reason to bow down to Big Surgical and allow for-profit companies to continue harming animals in sales demos.

Congress now must finish the job and do what it failed to do in the Farm Bill. Otherwise, we will continue to see dogs, pigs, and other animals used to market the sale of surgical tools. This is not legitimate research—it’s just pitiless peddling.

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