University of North Carolina

PETA Investigation: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2002 - 2003)

In 2002 and 2003, PETA conducted two undercover investigations at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), focusing largely on the treatment of mice and rats.

PETA found that UNC did not provide “even the minimal standard of care” to the animals used in their federally-funded experiments. In the first investigation, PETA found “chronic understaffing, incompetence, indifference, neglect, and outright cruelty caused rats and mice denied basic needs, including adequate space, food, water, and veterinary care. Some were even denied a humane death. Many of the animals were subjected to severe trauma, prolonged suffering, and agonizingly slow and grisly deaths.” [1]

One particularly disturbing allegation stated that “A researcher doused 8-day-old rat pups (“pinkies”) with ethyl alcohol and cut their heads off with scissors. He admitted that he was supposed to put the pups on ice for four minutes prior to cutting their heads off because ‘animal rights people’ and the ‘committee’ believe it is more humane. He said that when they write up their procedure reports, they say that they put the pups on ice, as required by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) policy. [2]

A year later, PETA went back to see if conditions had improved, but found animals were still “severely crowded, left without veterinary care, and killed inhumanely.” This second investigation found that “UNC had lied outright to NIH [National Institutes of Health, which oversees labs] about cleaning up its act.” [3]

The investigator documented, among other horrors, “Mice with large tumors that had ulcerated and burst, seriously sick and injured animals left to die without any veterinary care, severe crowding, leading to cannibalism and suffocation, and a guillotine blade so dull that two fully conscious rats’ necks were hacked twice in order to sever their heads from their bodies.” [4]

After each investigation, PETA filed a complaint with NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) detailing multiple violations of the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (The Guide). OLAW conducted its own follow-up investigations and in both cases, corroborated many of PETA’s allegations. [5] 

These included: “failures to ensure qualifications and training of personnel to conduct procedures such as gavage and collection of blood and other tissues; failure to follow procedures to minimize pain and distress; failure to implement timely treatment of sick animals; and failure to conduct a semiannual facility inspection in accordance with PHS Policy.  OLAW also noted that “Additional instances included deviations from the Guide-recommended cage sizes for mice resulting in their overcrowding, failures to ensure the deaths of animals following intended euthanasia with CO2, and improper positioning of cages on racks (potentially depriving animals of water).” [6] 

After OLAW conducted a second review in response to PETA’s investigation the following year, PETA prepared an analysis of both OLAW’s responses which “illustrates the absurdly repetitious nature of the violations that were documented in UNC’s animal labs during two separate PETA undercover investigations. It also shows UNC’s supposed corrective actions, which have inexplicably managed to satisfy the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). Clearly, had UNC truly implemented the corrective actions it claims to have adopted in OLAW’s 2004 report, identical violations would not have been documented by PETA during its second investigation!” [7] 

A video clip from PETA’s investigation may be viewed here: (video at very bottom of page)

[1]  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “PETA Investigations Reveal Taxpayer-Funded Torture at UNC Laboratory,”

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Letter from Nelson Garnett, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, April 28, 2004, at

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Table prepared by PETA of OLAW’s response to UNC investigations, undated,