Animal-rights group uses billboards to target MU Health

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COLUMBIA - A national medicine-ethics group is increasing pressure on MU Health Care, urging officials to end the school's use of live animals in its medical programs.

"We obtained public records that documented the use of pigs to train emergency medicine residents," said John Pippin, the director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine posted three billboards along Interstate 70, in addition to one mobile billboard circuiting through MU's Campus, each aimed at the university for its use of live animals like pigs.

One sign reads, "What does MU have that 95% of emergency medicine residencies don't? Live animal labs."

Another reads, "Univ. of Missouri, stop using live animals to teach human medicine."

MU Health Care confirmed in a statement live animals are used to "train emergency medicine resident physicians on life-saving measures that are not adequately replicated through simulation." 

Simulation -- or the use of artificial human models -- is used at many institutions with emergency medicine residency programs.

In a study performed by the Physicians Committee, researchers found that of 242 accredited emergency medicine residencies, 229 have abandoned the use of live animals. That puts MU among the 5 percent of schools that still make use of live animals.

MU utilizes simulations at its renowned Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Simulation Center. However, live animals are still used when instructors deem it necessary.

The Physicians Committee previously held a protest when MU approved continued using live animals despite community dissent.

"We've been working in the ensuing 15 months to urge the University of Missouri to catch up with everyone else and replace the use of animals with simulation." Pippin said. "They have the Shelden Simulation Center on campus, so they could do this tomorrow."

MU Health asserts live animal usage is required for research as well as practice, but Pippin has doubts.

"How in the world could 95 percent of emergency medicine residency programs be training these same procedures without using animals if it's essential to use animals?" Pippin said. "It simply doesn't hold water."

While Pippin said there's no plans for another protest in the immediate future, he does hope past efforts alongside renewed public interest encourage the university to rethink their decision to use the pigs.

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