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
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.