Wednesday, Oct 15, 2008 - 12:08 AM Updated: 12:36 AM
By KARIN KAPSIDELIS - TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
An animal-welfare group has obtained lab records from Virginia
Commonwealth University that it says document the suffering of
rhesus monkeys used in research.
The Ohio-based S.A.E.N. (Stop Animal Exploitation Now) yesterday
released internal VCU documents that the group said showed the
monkeys are subjected to severe stress and sometimes hurt themselves
as a result of conditions at the lab.
The group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture asking it to investigate the welfare of the primates and
the deaths of two of the monkeys.
VCU spokeswoman Pam Lepley said the animal research program
strictly complies with all federal standards and has been fully
accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of
Laboratory Animal Care since 1966.
"VCU uses animals in research only when there is no other
alternative to pursuing medical and scientific discovery that
advances human and animal health," Lepley said by e-mail.
"When an animal is used in research, whether it is a mouse, rat
or in a rare instance, a rhesus monkey, the ethical treatment of the
animal is a primary responsibility."
Michael Budkie, S.A.E.N. executive director, said his group had
found "disturbing information" in VCU's lab records. The records
were obtained by a local activist under the Freedom of Information
Act, he said.
Budkie said he had not spoken with anyone at VCU about his
"Typically, universities refuse to speak to us," he said.
He asked the Agriculture Department to investigation the deaths
of two monkeys, one of which was euthanized in February after it
"endured a lifetime of suffering." The other monkey died
unexpectedly in December 2007 of undetermined causes.
The lab reports also showed that in November a malfunctioning
system left up to seven monkeys without water for a weekend, Budkie
His complaint said that many of the monkeys "are so severely
disturbed that they tear out their own hair," leaving one with a
bald head. They also suffer from infections and from surgically
implanted catheters, which they attempt to tear out, he said.
According to Budkie, the monkeys are part of a drug-addiction
experiment funded through a $400,000 federal grant.
Lepley said VCU does very little non-human primate research, but
some rhesus monkeys are part of drug-addiction recovery, therapy and
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