But it remains unclear what effect the video could have on the Helms amendment, which would permanently exclude laboratory rats, mice and birds from U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight of animal treatment under the Animal Welfare Act.
The Animal Welfare Act requires that the USDA regulate the use of warm-blooded animals in research, but the act has never been applied to rodents or birds, which compose 95 percent of all research animals.
In an out-of-court settlement with animal rights groups in October 2000, the USDA agreed to write new guidelines that would include mice, rats and birds. But the Helms amendment, which was attached to a federal farm bill that has little relation to animal research, would block any new guidelines.
The video released Thursday, shot by a member of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who worked at a UNC animal research lab, comes on the heels of last week's U.S. Senate passage of a farm bill version that included Helms' amendment.
The farm bill, which passed the House with no such amendment, now goes to a conference committee for revision.
In a February Senate floor speech preceding the amendment's passage, Helms accused activists of threatening "life-saving" animal research.
"A rodent could do a lot worse than live out its life span in research facilities," he said.
PETA spokeswoman Lisa Lange said Friday she hoped the video, which has been sent to all farm bill conference committee members, would help defeat the Helms amendment."We're going to keep the pressure on," she said.
Animal research at UNC and other laboratories falls under the oversight of the National Institutes of Heath, which can deny funding to labs violating guidelines but does not conduct regular lab inspections, as would the USDA.