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Prosecutors in the German state of Hesse are investigating whether the culling of “surplus” research animals by local universities and other institutions constitutes a crime. In June 2021, two German animal rights groups, Doctors Against Animal Experiments (DAAE) and the German Juridical Society for Animal Protection Law (GJSAPL), filed multiple complaints with the prosecutors arguing that this killing violates the country’s strict animal protection laws, which forbid harming animals without reasonable cause. The complaints target universities in Frankfurt, Marburg, Giessen, and Darmstadt; Hesse-based Max Planck institutes; the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Langen; and some private research organizations. The Frankfurt general state prosecutor’s office is coordinating the investigation.

This new animal rights tactic was triggered in Germany in 2019 when a high court ruled that vertebrates cannot be killed simply because of economic reasons. This case was about male chicks, which were routinely killed during egg-production, but this gave ideas to animal rights organisations to extend it to vivisection animals.  Silke Strittmatter, a research associate at DAAE, said, “It’s known for a long time that animals are killed in labs because they are not needed.”  Shalin Gala, PETA’s vice president of international laboratory methods, said: “The killing of ‘excess’ animals in German laboratories is a crime against animals who paid with their lives, against taxpayers who paid for the animals used in horrific experiments, and against patients who are left waiting for treatments as experimenters waste valuable resources studying different species with different physiologies from that in humans.” In the United States, the number of animals used for research is unknown (estimates vary from 10 million to more than 100 million annually), so labs there can kill “excess” animals with no need to justify numbers to anyone other than the in-house ethics committees.