Thirty barn owls – extremely intelligent, responsive animals that use tools and take care of their young – are kept in captivity in the Johns Hopkins University laboratory run by Shrish Mysore. They will be tortured in invasive brain experiments and killed due to a congressional death sentence that PETA claims in federal court is unconstitutional.
The death sentence is the Helms Amendment of 2002, which stripped birds, mice and rats of the protection of the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) simply because of their species. In the United States, these species make up 99% of all animals used in laboratories, which means that tens of millions of animals are not protected by AWA during brutal and deadly experiments.
In the pioneering business of protecting animal rights, PETA–along with current JHU student, former Maryland Secretary of Health, animal welfare activist and actor Evanna Lynch–is suing the federal government as the “next friend” of the plaintiffs (in this case, these owls) because the Constitution is clear: Congress cannot punish anyone under the law. This includes inanimate corporations, which means that living breathing animals should also be included.
How can JHU maim and kill owls by constitution?
JHU experimenters cut open owl skulls and implant electrodes in their brains, lock them in restraints, and then bombard them with noise and light to watch their reactions. After the experimenters mutilate the brains of these birds, they will eventually kill all the plaintiffs.
Experimenters can torture and kill owls in large part due to an amendment to the AWA devised by notorious civil rights opponent Senator Jesse Helms. The Helms Amendment excludes “birds, rats … and mice … bred for use in research, from the scope of the AWA.” That the Helms Amendment aims at unconstitutional punishment against a specific group – in this case, birds bred for use in “research” – was confirmed by Helms himself in a brutal and sarcastic speech in which he pleaded with his fellow Senators to “do a well-earned rebuke ”to the so-called“ animal rights crowd ”, comparing birds, rats and mice bred for research – the group that includes the plaintiffs – with“ food for reptiles ”deserving“ extermination ”.
This amendment made it impossible for the Minister of Agriculture to issue or enforce standards, rules, regulations and other requirements for the humane treatment of these animals.
Why is this a violation of the constitutional rights of owls?
The constitution is clear – Congress cannot pass death or other punishment. This means: not against you or me, not against groups of people or political organizations, not against corporations or against animals.
The legislative death sentence – “court order” – was the weapon of choice for bloodthirsty English kings. Because of this notorious story, the creators of the Constitution decided unanimously and without controversy to ban all bills on property rights. So, judging by the text of the Constitution, these owls have the same protection from these laws as everyone else.
Why should we respect the constitutional rights of owls?
According to the experimenter’s own public statement, “Animals are capable of complex behaviors and cognitive functions.” Like all animals, owls are people with different personalities. They live in communities built on complex social relationships. Owls mate for life, help each other raise their young, and from an early age demonstrate a willingness to give up food for their hungrier peers.
Owls experience joy and can suffer, just like humans. Like all species, they share an innate desire to live harmlessly.
How can our nation protect inanimate corporations from harm, but deny protection to complex, intelligent beings?
What happens if PETA wins this lawsuit?
The purpose of this lawsuit is to overturn the Helms Amendment so that the federal government can do its job in accordance with the AWA. The amendment currently acts as a death sentence for tens of millions of animals every year.
A legal victory could mean the USDA will be ordered to issue regulations requiring the humane treatment of birds used in laboratories and to conduct rigorous checks to ensure that those standards are met. Experiments like these – and many others involving birds, mice and rats – in which the lives and interests of animals are treated as one-off, cannot satisfy any strict definition of humane treatment.
Tell JHU to end this agony now
PETA has made years of painstaking efforts to save these owls because they are used in some of the most gruesome and worthless experiments conducted on animals today.
The sight and hearing of an owl are not even remotely comparable to that of humans. Owls use different parts of their brain, other than human, to process stimuli. The stress of experimental torture further disrupts their brain processes.
These experiments are not about helping people – they are about getting money in the form of taxpayer-funded grants to flow to the university.
Join hundreds of thousands of supporters in calling on Johns Hopkins to end these cruel and useless owl experiments on his campus, release animals to a reputable sanctuary, and use the modern animal-free research methods offered to human patients. present Hope for treatment and treatment.