Animal welfare activists, smarting from a defeat in Congress, plan to campaign across the United States to convince state legislators that laboratory rats, mice, and birds used in biomedical research require greater protection than afforded by federal law. Most major US research organizations, however, maintain that the 15 to 20 million animals used in labs--about 95% in biomedical research--are adequately protected under existing public and private regulations. More federal oversight, they say, would only burden researchers with paperwork and expense while creating no real benefit for the animals.

The 2002 Omnibus Farm Bill, signed into law in May, included an amendment exempting "birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for research" from the Animal Welfare Act. The AWA requires researchers to keep records by cage or by research protocol for most warm-blooded vertebrates, whereas records for cats, dogs, and nonhuman primates must...

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