'Monkey Business' Ends At UConn Health Center
UCONN DAILY CAMPUS
By Andrew Porter
Issue date: 1/24/07 Section: News
The controversial research on non-human primates at
the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC) has been stopped.
The research, which involved implanting coils into the
eyes of rhesus macaque monkeys and drilling a hole into their heads, has
been the subject of many protests, led in large part by UConn graduate
student Justin Goodman.
According to documents from the USDA and the UCHC
Animal Care Committee, the USDA made an inspection of the research
facility on Aug. 29. Two days later on Aug. 31, Dr. David Waitzman, who
was in charge of the research, voluntarily stopped his experiments.
Then, on Sept. 6, UConn's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
revoked Waitzman's ability to continue the research.
The committee's decision came more than four months
after UConn President Philip Austin said in a May 2 letter to the
university community that UConn has "dealt successfully with problems
related to research animal care."
According to Goodman, the USDA has now launched a
formal investigation into the research, which can result in a formal
charge with the Secretary of Agriculture as well as fines for the UCHC.
The UConn Animal Care Committee also formed a
subcommittee to review the research. The subcommittee reviewed USDA
inspection reports as well as an anonymous letter which alleged that one
of the researchers assisting Waitzman was unfit to work with the monkeys
and was cruel to the animals.
The subcommittee's final report included six
recommendations. One suggested that Waitzman should receive a letter of
reprimand signed by the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr.
Peter Deckers, while another suggested that any future animal use by Dr.
Waitzman should be reviewed monthly.
"I feel this is a step in the right direction," said
Goodman. However he cautioned that he didn't feel his work was done.
"The school hasn't agreed to permanently stop the research ... The next
phase is to encourage the school to place a permanent moratorium on
non-human primate research."
Goodman also added that the stoppage of Waitzman's
research felt "bittersweet" because "In the last year or so three
monkeys died and one got sent to research elsewhere." According to
Goodman, he had acquired funds to transfer the final monkey, as well as
locate sanctuaries willing to house it, but the school declined his
"I think when most people think of animal research
they think of lab coats, Petri dishes and sterile white rooms," Goodman
said. "In reality, it is demonstrably bloody and violent ... the animals
don't want to be there."
The Daily Campus contacted the UCHC for this story,
however, no member of the UCHC would comment.
The UCHC did release a statement that broadly defended
its research practices and said in part, "Researchers at the University
of Connecticut Health Center are in the forefront of developing
vaccines, treatments, and cures that will improve, prolong, and save
Part of this research effort involves the humane and
ethical use of animals, including primates. The UConn Health Center is
committed to full compliance with all relevant animal welfare laws and
guidelines followed by major research universities throughout the
country. We constantly monitor and evaluate our use of animals in
research to remain in compliance and improve the quality of our animal
"David Waitzman has had $1.7 million to do his
research and he produced no useful data," Goodman said. "And that is
because the animals won't give him the data he wants."
"The public support shows people don't like [the
research]" he added.
"And the administration's continuous denial to engage us in debate shows
that there is no scientific, moral, or ethical way to defend it."
Rats, mice, birds, amphibians and other animals have
been excluded from coverage by the Animal Welfare Act. Therefore research
facility reports do not include these animals. As a result of this
situation, a blank report, or one with few animals listed, does not mean
that a facility has not performed experiments on non-reportable animals. A
blank form does mean that the facility in question has not used covered
animals (primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, pigs,
sheep, goats, etc.). Rats and mice alone are believed to comprise over 90%
of the animals used in experimentation. Therefore the majority of animals
used at research facilities are not even counted.