Nancy Crotti

October 26, 2016

3 Min Read
J&J Caves to PETA Protest

The company's decision to stop using live animals in training videos comes after complaints by the animal-rights group.

Nancy Crotti


Johnson & Johnson has promised to stop using live animals in sales training videos for surgical device representatives.

The company's Ethicon unit had been depicting pigs that were killed in the videos, according to a reportby STAT. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) complained to J&J about the videos and publicized its concerns, prompting a slew complaints from the public.

In an unsigned email dated Oct. 20, the company's Animal Care and Use Council told a member of PETA's laboratory investigations division that it has discontinued live animal use in sales training videos in North America and would do so worldwide by Dec. 31, 2016.

"The use of live animals for sales training in surgical settings has been a topic of internal discussion for quite some time," the email adds. "We continue to seek ways to reduce and replace the use of animals in laboratory settings across Johnson & Johnson."

PETA had written on its website that J&J "is reportedly cutting open and killing pigs in archaic and cruel laboratory drills in order to show its sales personnel how its products work, even though this practice has already been abandoned by its top competitors." The company's email announcing it would discontinue the practice had animal rights activists crowing.

As technology and animal-rights awareness advance, researchers and medtech companies have sought ways to reduce or eliminate animal testing. Harvard University researchers recently announced they had fabricated a heart-on-a-chip with new 3-D inks and built-in sensors that may eliminate the need for animal testing.

PETA has been pressuring medtech companies to discontinue use of live animals in for sales training purposes for several years, with varying success. For example, Medtronic's website says the company "does not pursue the use of animals for the sole purpose of training sales staff."

J&J's email to PETA that it "participate(s) in efforts to obtain regulatory acceptance of alternative testing methods and in the meantime, promote(s) the use of non-animal alternatives wherever feasible."  At Ethicon and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, the company said it has implemented new computer simulations that enhance the training of healthcare professionals, thereby "significantly" reducing live animal use.

PETA filed a shareholder resolution in 2012, calling on J&J to use non-animal methods for medical device training. Although the resolution failed, it garnered almost 73 million shares voting in favor, according to the organization's website.

On the animal testing front, every medical device manufacturer must conduct biocompatibility tests for cytotoxicity, irritation, and sensitization, or provide justification for why the tests were not performed. Cytotoxicity testing is performed in vitro, while irritation and sensitization tests are currently conducted in vivo on guinea pigs and rabbits, something the industry is working to change.

Nancy Crotti is a contributor to Qmed.

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[image by Maidiel1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

About the Author(s)

Nancy Crotti

Nancy Crotti is a frequent contributor to MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected].

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