WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for a boycott of M&Ms, Twix candy bars and other snack foods made by Mars Inc, claiming the company funds experiments that kill mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits.
“In violation of its own written policy, the candy company is currently funding a study at the University of California, San Francisco, that uses rats. The rats are force fed by having plastic tubes shoved down their throats, and they are then cut open and killed,” PETA said in a statement.
“In response to this new information, PETA is filing a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over Mars’ false statement,” the group said in a statement. The FTC investigates claims of dishonesty in advertising.
Mars spokeswoman Alice Nathanson said regarding the University of California experiment: “I can’t speak to any information that PETA may or may not have. I can’t speak to any experiments.”
But, she said that the privately held company “would never issue or post a statement that we were not 100 percent confident in.”
PETA spokeswoman Kathy Guillermo said in an interview the experiments seemed aimed at developing health claims for chocolate because it contains flavonoids.
Health studies have found that flavonoids protect against heart disease and cancer.
Guillermo said the boycott would start on Monday.
Mars says on its Web site that it bars animal research “involving euthanasia, vivisection or the suffering of any animal” in developing its snacks, drinks and pet products.
But the Web site also says that a separate business unit, Symbioscience, would undertake “limited forms of animal testing” when required to demonstrate the safety or efficacy of “pharmaceutical and therapeutic food products.”
PETA said in its statement that Mars paid for experiments in which mice had to swim in a pool of water and paint and find a hidden platform to avoid drowning and were killed later.
The group also accused Mars of funding an experiment in which plastic tubes were surgically attached to guinea pigs’ carotid arteries and cocoa ingredients were injected into their jugular veins to cause a sharp drop in blood pressure, and another experiment in which rabbits were fed high-cholesterol diets with varying amounts of cocoa and later the main blood vessels to their hearts were cut out and examined.
The University of California, San Francisco, confirmed in a statement that it was conducting a Mars-funded study of the potential health benefits of cocoa flavanols involving testing on rats.
“UCSF takes seriously the responsibility of working with animals and is committed to maintaining the highest standard of humane treatment in animal care and use,” Clifford Roberts, interim associate vice chancellor for research said in the statement.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Toni Reinhold