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

Media Coverage

Animals Rights group oppose UCD Primate Center practices

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-watchdog association.

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 pain.

Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN, expressed "grave concerns" regarding both animal care and experimentation at the UCD facility.

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 experiments.

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 distress."

John Capitanio, assistant director of research at the Primate Center, said that the allegations of dishonesty are "simply not true."

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 either.

"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 functions.

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 Tour.

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 experimentation.

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 experimentation.

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