At the start of Wednesday’s debate in the state Senate on spending $291 million to bring Jackson Laboratories to Connecticut, Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, made a blunt remark about the mice used by the non-profit that could trouble animal lovers.
Jackson is on the cutting edge of something called “personalized medicine” and, according to the information provided lawmakers by the company, “This year some 19,000 scientists in at least 60 countries will use about 3 million Jackson mice.”
LeBeau, fascinated by Jackson and eager to share his enthusiasm with his colleagues, explained how the lab can engineer mice to be more susceptible to diabetes.
LeBeau’s comment got me wondering where the animal rights legislators have been? The Jackson debate has focused on the financing and the risks to the state.
Jackson won’t be breeding mice in Connecticut, but surely someone in the General Assembly was going to pipe up for the mice? Every year lawmakers propose a couple of bills that deal with the humane treatment of animals.
So I went to Rep. Diana Urban, D-Stonington, viewed in Hartford as either: 1.) a conscientious lawmaker unafraid to take a stand for animals in Hartford 2.) or a pain in the butt who should worry about more important things than how circuses treat elephants.
“I had a major issue with the whole thing,” Urban said. “I have a terrible problem with any of this. But I know we have to use animals in research.”
But she said she wants to give his replacement – Edison Liu – a chance to at minimum prove he will be more humane.
“I’m not going to make it part of putting up a roadblock to this,” Urban said.
And then she immediately showed me a photo on her cell phone of an adorable mouse she caught in a Havaheart trap at her home…
UPDATE: Tim Bannon, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s chief of staff and the man responsible for bringing his boss and Jackson together, just told me he has seen the lab’s mice.
“They live quite well,” Bannon said. “I dare say better than any of us.”