Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Live Animals in Sale Rep Training

Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Live Animals in Sale Rep Training October 25, 2016
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Johnson & Johnson has changed its policy regarding the use of live animals in sales demonstrations.

The company’s Ethicon unit markets surgical products. The company apparently required sales staff to watch procedures being performed on pigs as demonstrations of the products. The demonstrations typically resulted in the death of the pigs. The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), protested.

On October 20, J&J’s Animal Care and Use Council sent an email to PETA’s laboratory investigations division, stating that, “The use of live animals for sales training in surgical settings has been a topic of internal discussion for quite some time. Johnson & Johnson as an enterprise—across our medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products businesses—has discontinued live animal use in sales training across our North America region. Further, we are working to discontinue this practice globally by December 31, 2016.”

The company indicates that it will switch over to using new computer simulations for training purposes.

PETA has been working to get J&J to change its practices in this regard since at least 2005. The organization staged public protests, and introduced a shareholder resolution in 2012 that was not taken implemented.

This recent change in J&J policy is probably been in the making for some time, but appears to be at least partially in response to a recent letter sent to the company by PETA. On its website, PETA notes that, “Other major medical-device companies have already switched to using non-animal methods to train sales personnel. Multibillion-dollar medical-device manufacturer Medtronic publicly states on its website that it ‘does not pursue the use of animals for the sole purpose of training sales staff.’”

PETA insisted that companies such as J&J can use non-animal training methods, “such as advanced human-patient simulators, ‘living’ human-cadaver models, or synthetic soft-tissue models.”

Back in 2005, PETA initiated initiated “Give the Animals 5,” with J&J, which attempted to get the company to replace five “crude and cruel” animal experiments with non-animal methods that had been scientifically validated. The company even went so far as to get the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to keep the PETA initiative out of its records, but the SEC turned down their appeal.

This was part of one of PETA’s strategies involving medical device companies, where it buys a large enough stake in a company to get into shareholder meetings, where its representatives can submit resolutions. In the case of the 2005 initiative, the SEC, according to Mass Device, “sided with PETA and the resolution made it into the books, garnering 4.7 percent of the shareholder vote. The animal rights organization filed a similar resolution in 2012, winning 4.4 percent of the vote.”

In response to J&J’s recent change of policy, Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s senior vice president of laboratory investigations, said in a statement, “PETA welcomes Johnson & Johnson to the modern scientific era. Pigs are wonderful, sensitive beings, not training tools, and there are far better ways for sales reps to learn how medical devices work in human patients.”

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