Davis Enterprise, The
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Author: Cory Golden; Enterprise staff writer
An animal-welfare organization has accused the California
National Primate Research Center at UC Davis with driving monkeys
Michael Budkie, executive director of Ohio-based Stop Animal
Exploitation NOW!, said that he filed a complaint with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture on Jan. 14, accusing UCD of violating the
Animal Welfare Act based on about 2,000 pages of medical records.
"The UC Davis primates illustrate the problem of insanity in U.S.
lab primates," Budkie said. "Most of these animals are literally
self-destructing, and the same can be said of monkeys in other
The university countered that animal care is a top priority, its
facilities are regularly inspected by the USDA, and that the
research center is accredited and inspected by the Association for
Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.
As a result of the complaint, USDA inspectors have since toured
the UCD facilities and found them to be in compliance with federal
laws, UCD spokesman Andy Fell said. A call to USDA for confirmation
was not immediately returned.
In a phone interview, Budkie said that the documents he secured
last year through public records requests show that during 2007 and
part of 2008, 404 monkeys died at the facility.
Necropsies showed 247 experienced a traumatic pathology of some
kind resulting either from self-injury or attacks by cage mates
during their lifetimes, Budkie said. Eighty-three had an appendage
amputated while 117 suffered bite wounds and 105 major lacerations.
In his complaint, Budkie wrote that he found "the attitude of
callousness and negligence at this facility to be nothing less than
shocking … It is clear that the staff of (UCD) systematically
ignores injuries in primates allowing them to be diagnosed only at
Fell said in an e-mail message that UCD does not dispute the
numbers — "but we don't think they accurately characterize the
Animals in the facility are given daily health checks, he said,
and the center's environmental enrichment program provides toys,
forage boards where animals can pick out corn and seeds as they
would in the wild, videos and, in outside enclosures, swings and
The staff puts "considerable effort" into preventing monkeys from
harming themselves and "when it does occur, in treating it,
sometimes using therapies that have been developed for the more than
2 million Americans that engage in self-injury."
Many of the injuries take place when monkeys fight in group
enclosures that measure up to a half acre, he said.
"Rhesus monkeys are aggressive animals, and (the center) tries to
house them, as much as possible, in groups that approximate the size
and composition in nature," Fell said. "This is the best way to
provide a rich and stimulating environment. Sometimes this type of
housing results in animals injuring each other, just as occurs in
nature. This is an outcome that we try to avoid in a variety of
ways, through use of enrichment, removal of highly aggressive
"The only way to completely prevent social trauma would be to
house the animals individually, which is not the best solution."
Budkie said that the records he requested were for monkeys used
in experiments, however. Those animals are kept indoors, in single
or double cages, he said, and are more prone to self-destructive
He said he found the multiple injuries suffered by individual
animals particularly disturbing: 27 of them sustained 10 or more
major injuries. One monkey, No. 24978, suffered six traumatic
injuries, six lacerations, six bites, one fracture, two amputations,
two abscesses and two other wounds that weren't categorized, Budkie
In the wild, a rhesus monkey might cover a square mile of
territory in a day. Inside, labs often house them in 3 feet by 3
feet stainless-steel cages, with perhaps a perch and a toy.
"Primates have a psychological nature similar to ours," Budkie
said. "If this were practiced on a human being, we wouldn't be
surprised if that suffered psychological abnormalities. How would
you like to be put in a steel room with only a chair and a rubber
ball? That's it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no sunshine
and often no contact with others of their species."
He said that the USDA has not responded to his complaint. Asked
about UCD passing a subsequent inspection, he said, "that's
"The situation I described, with that size of caging — those are
legal … That doesn't mean they're adequate or will keep a primate
from going insane," he said, adding that the Animal Welfare Act, as
written, leans toward research and away from protecting animals.
SAEN's accusations "historically don't hold up well," Fell said.
"Although they style themselves as a 'watchdog,' their real
objective is to shut down all research involving animals — research
that benefits both human and animal health," he added.
The center at UCD houses about 4,700 monkeys — mostly rhesus
macaques and some cynomolgus monkeys and South American titi monkeys
— according to its Web site.
Budkie's claims came on the heels of a report last week by ABC's
"Nightline." It detailed accusations by three former employees of
abuse at the nation's largest primate testing lab, the University of
Louisiana's New Iberia Research Center. Among the hidden camera
footage shot for the Humane Society of the United States were images
of a chimpanzee on a perch being shot with a tranquilizer gun, a
monkey being hit in the teeth with a metal bar to make it open its
mouth and apparently stressed chimps spinning in their cages.
The USDA has said it will investigate the New Iberia facility.
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