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

Media Coverage

Activist Complaint Triggers USDA Inspection At University of California, Davis, Primate Lab

A complaint from an animal welfare group has triggered a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of the California National Primate Research Center, housed at the University of California, Davis.

USDA inspected the facility, one of eight National Institutes of Health-funded primate labs across the country, after the group complained that nearly 10,000 macaque monkeys subjected to invasive skull procedures in 2000 and 2001 were not listed as experiencing "unrelieved pain and distress" as required under the Animal Welfare Act, according to records obtained by the group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now!

SAEN Executive Director Michael A. Budkie told USDA in the July 29 complaint that "The research protocols attach devices to the skulls of macaque monkeys, place electrodes into their brains, confine them to restraint chairs, deprive them of water and subject them to social isolation.

"Yet not a single primate is listed as having experienced unrelieved pain or distress. Surely, this stretches the credulity of any thinking person," he said. "The only conclusion that can be reached is that the officials at UC Davis are deliberately misclassifying these experiments."

Suffering Doubted.

Center Director Dallas Hyde told BNA that Budkie is wrong in thinking the animals suffered. Implanted primates behave normally, Hyde said, indicating that the experiments do not cause unrelieved pain and distress and do not need to be reported as such.

He suggested Budkie anthropomorphized the animals' reactions.

USDA found no current incidents of noncompliance on its Aug. 9 visit, Hyde said. One inspector spent five hours at the facility inspecting roughly 4,600 primates there.

UC Davis necropsy reports Budkie obtained show that about 50 primates were emaciated or dehydrated or both when they died, a point made in the SAEN complaint.

Hyde said that was most likely due to chronic diarrhea, a common problem among infant lab primates.

Other diseases and conditions listed in necropsy reports included meningitis, encephalitis, and endometriosis, according to the complaint.

SAEN Investigations Continue.

An earlier complaint of misclassification submitted by SAEN to USDA last fall prompted the University of Wisconsin to better enforce rules for reporting lab animal pain and distress (2 MRLR 888, 12/17/03).

"We hope at the very least we might have that same kind of impact [at Davis]," Budkie told BNA.

Schools have an incentive to keep animals out of the unrelieved pain and distress category in their annual USDA lab-animal reports because experimenters must justify why animals were allowed to suffer, Budkie said. "In [explaining why], you usually have to explain what the experiment is," he said, and the potential public scrutiny is an incentive to misclassify.

Budkie said he currently is reviewing additional documents from the California center and investigating other NIH primate labs. A complaint against the University of Washington in Seattle is in the works, and he also is investigating what he considers a high incidence of infant mortality at the Oregon Primate Center.

Animal welfare demonstrators protested outside the California center in early August and were covered by local media. The added scrutiny comes as the center plans an expansion to house about 500 more primates, in part for bioterrorism research, Hyde said.

There are about 25,000 primates at the eight NIH centers, which both breed and experiment on the animals.

By M. Alexander Otto


SAEN's report on the California National Primate Research Center is available on the Web at http://www.all-creatures.org/saen/res-fr-ca-ucd-inside-int.html.

Copyright 2004, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington, D.C.

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