Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

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Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Death, Disease & Insanity: Health and Well-Being of Primates at New England National Primate Research Center/Harvard
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN
513-575-5517 saen@saenonline.org  

Summary

It is apparent that the condition of the primates at the NENPRC is a cause for great concern. The psychological well being of these animals is a major issue with over 370 primates (rhesus and squirrel monkeys) exhibiting abnormal behavior. Apparently the situation is worsening as ever more primates are listed with psychological pathologies. It is highly possible that these unfortunate primates are being maintained in a purposely stressed and psychologically abnormal condition so that they may serve as subjects in one of ten separate experiments at NENPRC which deal with psychological pathology including self-injury. It is also possible that the instances of psychological abnormality within the squirrel monkeys at the NENPRC may be due to the use of a group of these primates in addiction experimentation which can involve confinement to restraint chairs, the use of electric shock, and/or drug withdrawal.

The overall infant mortality rate at the center may be as high as 55%, with 144 neonatal deaths/spontaneous abortions taking place in one year. Also, the vast majority (159) of the marmosets within the experimental colony of the center died during the last reporting year, primarily from disease.

417 primates died (were necropsied) at the center during the 2002 2003 reporting year, or more than one animal every day. 189 died of disease, 179 died during experimentation. Another 49 deaths remain unexplained.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from these issues is that the primates at the NENPRC are, overall, highly stressed animals with significant instances of disease both physical and psychological in nature. The issues raised in this report must cast doubt on the quality of veterinary care given to the primates within this laboratory. The high number of animals who die during experimentation must also raise serious concerns as to the invasiveness of the experimentation. The psychological needs of many of these animals are also apparently being ignored to insure the existence of a population of mentally aberrant animals for use in experimentation.

The physiological and psychological condition of the primates at NENPRC are causes of such serious concern as to raise substantial doubts as to the validity of the experimentation at NENPRC. The high levels of disease in the marmoset colony raise serious doubts as to the scientific validity of all experiments involving marmosets. The apparently high level of psychologically abnormal behavior in the squirrel monkey population and in the individually housed macaques at NENPRC raises serious doubts regarding any experiments involving these animals.

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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.

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