Internal documents point to primate abuse at Emory
From Creative Loafing -- an alternative newspaper in
Atlanta with a circulation of 140,000
BY ALYSSA ABKOWITZ
Internal documents obtained and released last week by
a Cincinnati-based animal advocate group show that Emory University and
its Yerkes National Primate Research Center might have violated the
federal Animal Welfare Act, resulting in the death of a rhesus monkey.
A Yerkes spokesperson said the group's findings
Stop Animal Exploitation Now released a study Oct. 5
on animal abuse at institutions nationwide, including Emory. The report
documents social isolation and lack of food and water, which caused
primates to become anorexic and go bald from over-grooming, a product of
stress, says Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN.
"Taking care of primates isn't [Yerkes'] first
priority," Budkie says. "Researchers only care about getting money into
the university and don't care what happens to the primates."
The study alleges that an Emory investigation into the
2002 death of a rhesus monkey revealed a failure to monitor and treat
the monkey as specified in protocol, even after staff warned that the
monkey appeared ill.
Lisa Newbern, a Yerkes spokeswoman, says the death
didn't take place at Yerkes but in a separate Emory lab. "The
information Budkie released is several years old," Newbern adds. "People
at Yerkes are giving the absolute best care to animals. The better care
for our animals, the more valid are our scientific results."
But the SAEN report points out that the U.S.
Department of Agriculture found Yerkes animals living in cages the size
of a large television, sharp objects that could injure the primates
within their reach, and several lethargic and balding primates.
Yerkes, which holds more than 3,000 primates -- over
70 percent of the state's lab primates -- has received $100 million in
funding, primarily from the National Institutes of Health.
Budkie says a large problem at Emory and nationwide is
lack of lab monitoring. He claims USDA at best visits a lab once a year
and can fine up to $2,000 for a code violation. But the agency does
nothing more, because most of the primate labs are registered with, but
not licensed by, the federal government.
"Labs consider paying the fines part of the business,"
Budkie says. "When they're getting millions of dollars, a couple
thousand is nothing for them, especially when they know they can't get a