One of Israel’s top university’s has derided “ludicrous” allegations by a British Jewish student about animal abuses in one of its laboratories.
Rosie Leizrowice, 19, this week accused Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Zoological Garden of “horrific” animal cruelty including starvation, overcrowding and keeping mice in “rotting in cages with dead family members” in effluence “up to six-inches deep”.
The Southampton university student, who was born in Israel and was volunteering at the garden with the Care for Endangered Animals Programme, took her claims to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
She told Jewish News: “The most shocking moment was when I found a box of about 50 newborn mice. The only food they had was lettuce, which isn’t sufficient for rodents, and they were left outside in 50 degree heat with no ventilation in an area with predatory birds.
“To me it seems the intention was for them to die in the sun, because there was no other possible outcome if I had not found them and moved them into shade.
“I saw negligence, like things not being cleaned, damage not being repaired, overpopulation allowed to happen – to the point where it seemed actively cruel.”
She added that staff members advised her to “not view the animals as living things” as it would “make the work easier”. She added: “After a few attempts at speaking to staff about my worries, it was very clear they weren’t willing to listen to me, so I contacted PETA. It felt it cowardly to see what was really going on and ignore it.”
However, Tel Aviv University summararily rejected her “baseless” claims in a detailed 11-point response, saying her allegations arise from “disturbing ignorance” about its care methods.
The institution, which tests on animals for medical reasons, says Leizrowice “harmed animals when cleaning cages and mixed animals from different groups and even different species – which caused aggressiveness and mutual injuries”. It added that “when the caretaker in charge brought this to her attention, she disappeared and never came back”.
According to PETA’s formal complaint, which was based on Leizrowice’s report, animals at the Zoological Research laboratory were “left to suffer 100 degree-heat fahrenheit” while “unwanted adult animals were gassed to death in large numbers” and adds that up to 30 rodents are kept in space “no larger than a sheet of typing paper”, while tiny cages contained up to 50 animals. “Cages throughout the facility are filled with dirt and animal waste that accumulates up to six inches deep”.
But TAU responded by saying “some cages are washed daily, while others are cleaned and their beds changed at longer intervals – when the animals enter a period of inactivity”.
It added that “cleaning cages was precisely the task of the volunteer who complained that the cages were allegedly not being cleaned” and rejected Leizrowice’s complaint about animals being left deliberately in the heat as “a blatant, baseless lie.”
It also addressed the complaint that animals were left to die in the heat, saying that “animals in every cage have access to shade 24/7, and on excessively hot days, sprinklers are activated to cool down the temperature. In addition, our rodents live in the wild in Israel, most of them in deserts, and are accustomed to heat, sometimes even preferring high temperatures typical of their natural habitats”.
A PETA spokesperson outlined “controversial” tests conducted at TAU, including ‘orthopedic injury experiments’, in which rats were subjected to injuries of the rotator cuff before being killed, and their “shoulders were harvested,” claims TAU rejected.
It said: “[The Zoological Garden] operates according to international guidelines for guarding the well-being of the animals in its care”, adding that, at the last inspection of the facility by the National Council for Animal Experimentation, in June, “no inadequacies in animal care” were found.