Jenny and dog COVIDCrisis

Photo: Jenny Teed, PETA Community Animal Project, with Brownie.

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This Fund is a regular contributor to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — two organizations now tackling COVID-19 in multiple ways.

Immune-Boosting Nutrition

PCRM’s The Exam Room, the #1 Apple Podcast nutrition program worldwide, is now publishing multiple podcasts and Facebook Live programs each week. Focusing on immune-boosting nutrition — particularly for those at high risk for COVID-19 complications – the latest episodes include Nutrition & Pandemics: What We’ve Known Since 1918Diabetes and Coronavirus, and Asthma and Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, PCRM’s Barnard Medical Center — a primary care clinic emphasizing plant-based nutrition — now offers telehealth appointments with physicians and dietitians for patients in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Closing Live Animal Markets

The COVID-19 pandemic, like the 2003 SARS epidemic, likely originated when a virus jumped from live market animals to humans.

On March 25, PETA set up an online petition and issued a public letter urging the World Health Organization Director General to call for immediate worldwide closure of live animal markets. 

On March 30, PCRM launched a petition to the Surgeon General to use his authority to ban live animal markets in the U.S. and to seek agreements for the same action internationally.

On April 3, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci joined PETA, PCRM and others in urging the international community to close wet markets – saying: “It boggles my mind when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down. I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”

Animal Food for Families in Need

PETA has organized a dog and cat food drive from its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters, to serve the poorest communities in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. PETA’s Community Animal Project staff have long provided animal supplies and services to the neediest families in the region – and now they have scaled up to meet the crisis need, making extra donations to local food banks and delivering directly to area residents’ homes.

Human-Relevant Vaccine Testing

PETA and PCRM have worked for decades to end cruel and ineffective animal testing, while supporting scientists who develop alternative human-relevant methods.

On March 16, the urgent race for a COVID-19 vaccine prompted the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to proceed with the first human clinical trial in Seattle, without waiting for animal testing results — demonstrating that with the scale and seriousness of this pandemic, researchers can’t afford to waste time on animal experiments. 

COVID-19 Researchers Avoid Archaic Tests on Animals (April 1) describes more examples of innovative human-relevant research now in progress around the world, some supported by PETA, to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

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Earlier in Q1 2020, the Greg Fund contributed to the following programs:

PETA Campaign to End Cruelty Toward Racehorses

U.S. federal level: After PETA’s decade of work to end the use of performance-enhancing drugs that cause most fatal racehorse breakdowns, on March 9 federal prosecutors charged 27 racehorse trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors with “a corrupt scheme to secretly dope horses and cheat the betting public in what has become a $100 billion global industry.” Then on March 13, Washington Post Opinion published its editorial board’s position that Horse Racing has Outlived its Time — citing as key evidence PETA’s 2014 investigation into treatment of horses including Charlie’s Quest, who I later adopted.

California: During February 2020, Assembly Member Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) introduced the Equine Welfare and Safety in Horse Racing Act (AB 2177) sponsored by PETA and Social Compassion in Legislation, to mandate the use of CT scan equipment for screening horses’ legs, prohibit veterinarians from prescribing medications for anything other than a diagnosed condition, authorize the California Horse Racing Board to suspend or revoke a trainer’s license for repeat violations of medication regulations, and more. (Kretzer M. 2020 February 24. PETA Cosponsors Bill to Combat Horse Racing.)

PETA Community Animal Project

The Project has provided testimony and public education since 2017 in support of Virginia statewide legislation to protect backyard dogs. During Virginia’s 2020 legislative session, its work helped pass SB 272 in the House and Senate, mandating shelter in temperatures of 32° F or lower or 85° F or higher, or during a severe weather warning. The bill, which also increases the minimum tether length from 10 to 15 feet, builds on 2019 SB 1025 which PETA also championed. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam supported SB 272 in the legislative process, and is expected to sign it into law this spring.

White Coat Waste Project (WCW)

In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was the latest agency to enact a lab animal retirement policy in response to a White Coat Waste Project campaign, following the National Institutes of Health and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

The new agency policy followed White Coat Waste’s 2018 success in ending a taxpayer-funded FDA nicotine experiment on 30 monkeys — and then moving the 26 survivors, including one named Gregory, to spend the rest of their lives at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Florida. I had the privilege of visiting the sanctuary and meeting Gregory over Valentine’s Day weekend.

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