Lily Tomlin arrives at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles.

Lily Tomlin arrives at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Los Angeles.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie, 9 to 5) has a message for the employees of Texas A&M. Specifically, a voicemail message. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the comedian and actress left a message for more than 5,000 university staff members urging them to end "cruel experiments on dogs" on campus.

In the voicemail (which PETA has uploaded to YouTube), Tomlin can be heard saying, "Texas A&M deliberately breeds golden retrievers and other dogs to have a debilitating form of canine muscular dystrophy. Many of these dogs suffer premature and agonizing deaths. Others endure lives of misery and struggle to swallow and even breathe."

She continues, "After 35 years of these experiments, the last five on your campus, there is still no cure [for muscular dystrophy]. ... There are better ways, and other universities are surpassing Texas A&M in this research."

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that leads to muscle degeneration. The most common form, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) primarily affects boys. There is no cure, and those affected often do not survive past their teen years.

In response to PETA, an A&M spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter, "We respect Ms. Tomlin, but we disagree. We know for a fact that the animals are treated with the upmost dignity and care for the heroes that they are in helping to find a cure for this dreadful disease that affects both dogs and humans." The same representative says that in December the university's laboratory research moved to human clinical trials of a gene-therapy treatment.

This is not the first time A&M has been under fire for their muscular dystrophy research. The university defended itself against PETA's claims back in 2016, saying that the animal rights group's video was lacking context. 

"The dogs -- who are already affected by this disease -- are treated with the utmost respect and exceptional care on site by board-certified veterinarians and highly trained staff," their response said. "The care team is further subject to scientific oversight by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, among other regulatory bodies."

A Change.org petition criticizing the university, started by two students, now has more than 400,000 signatures

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