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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Activists file complaint against UCD - Group alleges cruel treatment of monkeys

By Sharon Stello Enterprise staff writer

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, a national research watchdog organization based in Cincinnati, announced Tuesday it has filed a complaint against UC Davis, calling for an investigation into research practices at the university’s Primate Center.

In the complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, SAEN claims the California National Primate Research Center at UCD has conducted painful and stressful experiments on hundreds of primates apparently without anesthesia, and lied to federal regulators about it.

SAEN also claims the center’s research is unnecessarily duplicative of studies at numerous other institutions.

Primate Center officials have denied the group’s claims. USDA representatives could not be reached for comment.

The complaint comes after a protest against the center by a different group on Saturday. About a dozen protesters demonstrated outside the center’s entrance at Hutchison Drive and County Road 98 the last stop on a Utah college student’s journey to each of the eight National Primate Research Centers.

On Tuesday, a short distance from the peaceful protesters still there, SAEN executive director Michael Budkie alleged that UCD officials have deliberately misled the public and filed false and misleading reports and said he wants the USDA to investigate and require the university to pay the largest fines allowable by law.

Budkie said the center falsely reported that none of its research animals felt pain or stress when primates have died from a wide range of diseases including pneumonia, encephalitis and meningitis. “Unless they’re delusional, I don’t see how they can expect anyone to believe that,” Budkie said.

He said SAEN has no representatives in the center to observe operations, but has relied on freedom of information laws to obtain annual reports filed by the center. SAEN examined the center’s annual progress reports and necropsy reports, which account for research animals that have died there.

Budkie said the center reports that no animals experienced pain from research and he believes, based on the type of research conducted at the center, that it just simply isn’t possible. “The University of California at Davis is trying to put a good face on experimentation that is simply heinous,” Budkie said. “We believe the public has a right to know what goes on inside these facilities because we’re paying for it.”

John Capitanio, associate director for research at the Primate Center, acknowledged that some research animals experience some degree of pain or distress, but that number is accurately reported every year along with the number of animals whose pain was able to be alleviated. Capitanio said primates receive the appropriate antibiotics and painkillers and they are not visibly in pain or distress. Furthermore, he said, animals in such conditions would not serve well for research.

Capitanio provided the center’s annual reports for 2000, 2001 and 2002. In the reports, the center’s primates are divided into four categories. One group includes primates being bred, conditioned or held for use in teaching, testing, experiments, research or surgery but not yet used for such purposes and another group includes primates upon which teaching, research, experiments or tests were conducted involving no pain, distress or use of pain-relieving drugs. A third category includes primates upon which experiments, teaching, research, surgery or tests were conducted involving accompanying pain or distress to the animals and for which appropriate anesthetic analgesic or tranquilizing drugs were used.

Numbers vary from year to year in these first three groups, but the fourth category remains at zero for all three years. This fourth category is for animals that experience pain and distress but are not given pain killers because the use of appropriate anesthetic, analgesic or tranquilizing drugs would have adversely affected the procedures, results or interpretation of the teaching, research, experiments, surgery or tests.

As for the claim alleging gross duplication of research, Capitanio said this would not be permitted by the panel of scientific peers that review research proposals for grant funding. Capitanio added that research is only conducted on primates when a study cannot be done on a lesser organism.

Capitanio said if USDA decides to conduct an investigation based on SAEN’s complaint, “we’ll greet them at the front door.” This is the third in a series of complaints that SAEN has filed since June against research facilities across the country, including the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Harvard University. Budkie said the group next plans to file a complaint against the University of Washington in Seattle.

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