From the University of California Aggie
Thursday August 12, 2004
SAEN alleges UCD
By JESSICA KNOX
Aggie News Writer
A formal complaint was filed recently against the
California National Primate Research Center with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture by Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based
Animal rights protestors assembled outside the Primate
Center at UC Davis on August 3 in response to the recent controversy
surrounding the treatment of primates at the facility.
The complaint alleges that the Primate Center, an
affiliate of UCD, "lied" about experimentation that caused the animals
Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN, expressed
"grave concerns" regarding both animal care and experimentation at the
Based on the annual reports filed with the National
Institute of Health by the Primate Research Center, the official
complaint questioned research protocols and the validity of certain
In the complaint, Budkie speculated that many
procedures performed by the Primate Research Center are not only
unnecessary, but may violate the Animal Welfare Act.
The SAEN complaint targeted the use of water
restriction, confinement to restraint chairs, multiple survival
surgeries, and social isolation in rhesus macaques, which constitute the
majority of the population of 4,000 monkeys at the center.
The complaint showed that of the 9,648 primates
experimented on between 2000 and 2001, the UCD facility reported that
"not a single primate is listed as having experienced unrelieved pain or
John Capitanio, assistant director of research at the
Primate Center, said that the allegations of dishonesty are "simply not
In the reports, officials of the UCD Primate Center
denied the claims, saying, "We never said that the animals do not
experience pain and distress." While pain and distress may be
experienced by some animals, "it is alleviated," Capitanio said.
Budkie emphasized that if experiments cannot be
performed on humans, then they should not be carried out on animals
"These are experiments that are unethical to perform
on humans because they cause pain and stress," Budkie said.
The possibility that they do not cause pain and stress
in primates as well, he said, is "mind-boggling."
Capitanio explained that the restraint devices used at
the UCD facility differed from those described by Budkie. Water
restriction procedures are also regulated by the UCD Animal Use and Care
Administrative Advisory Committee, which stipulates that animals must
always be provided with enough water to maintain normal physiological
John G. Miller, executive director of the Association
for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International
- a nonprofit organization founded in 1965 - said the AAALAC only
accredits laboratories doing appropriate animal research.
One of the largest facilities accredited by the AAALAC
is the UCD Primate Research Center, according to Miller.
Miller described the process of accreditation as a
lengthy one, requiring compliance with the AAALAC guidelines, inspection
by field experts, and re-evaluation every three years.
Miller noted that because the evaluations conducted by
the AAALAC are announced and expected, some animal rights activists
question their findings. He said many activists felt that "the only good
inspection is an unannounced inspection."
However, the USDA carries out several unannounced
inspections of the UCD facility annually.
In response to the SAEN complaint against the Primate
Center, Miller said that many of the procedures sound "gruesome and
horribly painful, but obviously aren't."
"There are counterpart human procedures, and the
humans who have them do not report them as being painful and
distressing," Miller said.
The protest at the Primate Center following the SAEN
complaint was a peaceful one, but the center has seen several arrests
and violent acts in its history with animal rights activism.
In April 1987, an arson fire caused $5 million in
damage to the John E. Thurman Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. In March
1997, another arson fire occurred, along with the arrest of 32 animal
rights activists charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and
vandalism. Arrests were also made in 1999 during the Primate Freedom
More recently, the UCD facility was the object of a
lawsuit filed by the American Protection Institute and In Defense of
Animals. The proposed expansion of a breeding facility led the API and
IDA to file suit. A settlement was eventually reached, where the Primate
Center agreed to set aside funding for noninvasive research methods and
the reduction of primate research in order to expand its facilities.
Despite the allegations, the Primate Center continues
to uphold the importance of its accomplishments through animal
Research in the areas of AIDS, autism, asthma and
Alzheimer's "has been contributing to the advancement of human and
animal health for over 40 years," said a CNPRC press advisory.
Budkie, however, said he believes that UCD "is not
being honest about how they categorize their information." Budkie
stressed that if further investigations into CNPRC files and reports
produce more information, SAEN action would continue - possibly to the
level of congressional interest. Budkie added that he hopes for a change
in policy similar to that which took place at the University of
Wisconsin following SAEN complaints in 2003.
SAEN was founded in 1996 to end the abuse of
laboratory animals. Since its beginning, SAEN has used news conferences,
media campaigns, investigations and complaints to raise awareness and
fight to make a difference for animals.
The USDA fined several laboratories after animal
abuses were brought to light by SAEN at several universities. Abusive
experiments conducted at the University of Toledo were terminated after
action was taken by SAEN.
Major milestones for SAEN involved the largest
official complaint in history, filed with the USDA against UCLA, Johns
Hopkins, Stanford, Yale, Harvard and others in 2001; an investigation
into the NIH in 2001; and a complaint with the USDA in 2002 alleging
that Harvard and Yale "lied" about the number of primates used in