Ran in the Isthmus in Madison, WI
17 June 2004
A national coalition of animal-rights advocates is
calling for a Congressional inquiry into the eight National Primate
Research Centers, including the one in Madison.
"Reports filed by the facilities which comprise the
primate center system reveal substantial and widespread problems," says
Michael Budkie, the head of an Ohio-based group called Stop Animal
Eight groups, including the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Virginia, and Madison's own Alliance for
Animals, have written letters to Congressional leaders seeking an
investigation. Several letters call particular attention to the research
center in Madison.
The center, as Isthmus reported in a recent cover
story ("Inside the monkey house," 6/4/04), has about 1,400 monkeys and
brings tens of millions of research dollars into Madison each year. Four
kinds of primates, mostly rhesus macaques and marmosets, are used in
dozens of experiments, from AIDS-related research to efforts to study
the long-term effects of low-calorie diets.
A new report released by Budkie's group faults the
facility for inaccurate reporting, high infant mortality rates, and
evidence of high stress among the center's primates. The report is
available online at
"If what we're seeing at the UW is indicative of the
conditions nationwide, this is a travesty," says Budkie, who helped
orchestrate the campaign seeking a Congressional inquiry. "We're hoping
to generate a groundswell that will demand these hearings." He also
hopes an inquiry will bring more information to light: "At the very
least, the people of this country have a right to see what's going on in
The letters, addressed to the leaders of Congressional
subcommittees on health care, argue that much of the research being done
in these centers is duplicative and unreliable. They say the animals are
subjected to cruelty and neglect. And, says Lori Nitzel of the Alliance
for Animals, "the amount of independent oversight at these centers is
UW primate center officials insist they are doing
important research and deny there are problems with the care of animals
at their facility. Even still, they seem cool to the idea of a
"Anyone has a right to request a government inspection
of any facility," says center spokesperson Jordana Lenon. "There are
already many laws and regulations in place governing research labs.
Whether this latest inquiry would result in a good use of taxpayers'
money would be debatable."