Letters and Responses

From The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Family Foundation
and All-Creatures.Org

Letter from Michael to Senator Edward Kennedy about National Eye Institute - 15 Apr 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy
317 Russell Senate Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Senator Kennedy,

I am contacting you today regarding a matter of the utmost importance, especially in the current economic situation in the United States, the waste of federal tax dollars on a very large scale.

The organization which I direct, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW (SAEN), has recently completed an in-depth investigation of the funding of experimentation involving the use of non-human primates through the National Eye Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Our findings have shocked us beyond our wildest expectations.

The use of primates in experiments funded by the National Eye Institute is one of the most horrific and wasteful areas of experimentation funded by the federal government. Every year this area of highly invasive experimentation causes the suffering and death of hundreds of animals. Every five years the 53 grants in this highly redundant area of investigation waste approximately $100 million in federal tax dollars. Our investigations have revealed that these projects are underway in 26 laboratories spread throughout 15 states. They involve 46 researchers and have wasted 510 research years.

The technology used in these projects dates back to the 1960s. Indeed, many of these projects have been funded for decades. Two are over 30 years old, six are over 20 years old, and 13 are over a decade in age. This is old technology and should be abandoned. The barbaric procedures use steel or titanium screws to bolt restraining bars and recording cylinders to the skulls of macaque monkeys. Eye coils are implanted under the skin. Conscious primates are forced to participate in the behavioral paradigms through the utilization of food and/or water deprivation while confined in restraint chairs.

Many of the institutions which perform these experiments including Duke, Wake Forest, University of Washington, University of California, Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, Vanderbilt, and Princeton have been directly involved in serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act. One incident involving the University of Washington led to the potential refunding of millions in grants to the NIH due to the performance of unapproved surgical procedures.

The procedures used in these projects have been evaluated by veterinarians and primatologists and have been deemed painful, stressful, and unethical. The use of the devices involved in these experimental procedures can be directly tied to serious illnesses in many animals. The validity of these projects is highly questionable from a scientific point of view.

Due to the highly redundant nature of these experiments, their overt cruelty, and their direct correlation to the violation of federal laws, I officially request that you contact the Acting Comptroller General, Gene L. Dodaro, to request that the General Accountability Office perform an audit of the funding of primate research grants by the National Eye Institute. I firmly believe that the majority, if not all, of the experiments in question could be de-funded without any detriment to the health of the American public. In fact, if we could re-direct the $100 million five-year funding total from these unnecessary projects into actual health care programs, the American public would benefit from better preventative medical care, etc.

I have attached our report on this issue to this request letter. Our report contains a table which details the funding amounts and experimental procedures used in these experiments. Our report also contains the documents which demonstrate the violations of federal law which are tied to these experimental procedures.

Our website, SAEN, contains the documents which were the basis of this report including dozens of grant applications which were obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act as well as information from dozens of medical journal articles relevant to these projects.

I look forward to hearing from your office in the near future regarding this issue, and I anxiously await the results of the GAO audit.

If your staff has any questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact me at 513-575-5517.

With Respect For All Life,
Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.,
Executive Director, SAEN

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