On June 1st, Michael Budkie, Executive Director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (Warning: AR Website) (SAEN), issued a press release that was picked up by some media outlets, including United Press International (UPI) and USA Today.
The press release read in part:
The next industry meltdown may be in the nation’s research laboratories, an independent research watchdog said today after it field a wide-ranging complaint against 26 laboratories, including those at Harvard, MIT, John Hopkins and the University of California, for fraud.
The formal complaint (Warning: AR Website) alleged that over 20 faculty members at these top academic institutions in the US, such as MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins and the University of California, are defrauding the government by unnecessarily duplicating experiments in animals. The complaint came accompanied with a table and an “index” developed by Mr. Budkie to support his conclusions.
On July 28th, Speaking of Research sent an open letter to Mr. Budkie, addressing his concerns and explaining the flaws in his analysis. In an nutshell, Mr. Budkie’s argument is that because researchers use similar tools and animal species, they must be doing the same work. He could as well argue that a computer technician and an auto mechanic do the same work because they both use screwdrivers. His characterization reflects, at best, a gross misunderstanding of scientific research.
Mr Budkie has not replied to our open letter.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, his failure to respond might be due to the fact that his complaint was already investigated and rebutted by both USDA and NIH — an inconvenient document missing from his web site, which still contains the original complaint letter. His recent newsletter (Warning: AR Website), also contains the same accusations, even though the reply from NIH and USDA must surely be in his hands. Put simply, Michael Budkie has chosen to ignore the information that clears the investigators of his claims, leaving readers of his website without the vital facts of the matter.
The letter from NIH, obtained by SR through a FOIA request, essentially parallels the same response we offered in our rebuttal.
Speaking of Research firmly believe that the Freedom of Information Act is an essential part of maintaining transparency and openness between the government and citizens, however, in our opinion, over the years Michael Budkie has done little more than abuse of the regulatory system, requesting documents through FOIA from NIH and USDA, and filing trivial complaints. Since 2007 he has filed a USDA complaints at a rate of seven per year (Warning: AR Website), all of which must be investigated at the expense of the taxpayer dollars. When the resulting investigations fail to substantiate his claims, he argues USDA is failing to do its job.
Mr. Budkie represents himself as a “an independent research watchdog” group, but he is neither independent (he is a well known animal rights campaigner), and his “research” is limited to grotesque misrepresentations of important scientific work.
Mr. Budkie misleads the public and the media into thinking that his organization is concerned about failures of the animal research compliance system and that he supports alternatives to animal research. Yet, his web-site provides negligible information on this topic, making it difficult to accept SAEN as an organization that has a stated goal of supporting alternatives to animal research.
This one-man “organization”, SAEN, is supported by the Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Foundation, which has the stated goal to “restore God’s original creation intent of a plant based diet” and to to promote “the elimination of the use of animals in biomedical research and testing, their use as food, or their use for any and all commercial purposes“.
Hopefully, this information will serve to clarify the only goal of Mr. Budkie’s “organization”: the abolition of the use of animals for medical research.
Speaking of Research