BY HEATHER MILLER THE DAILY IBERIAN
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:07 PM CDT
LAFAYETTE — A research watchdog organization has filed another
complaint against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New
Iberia Research Center, demanding an investigation into what the
group claims is overall inadequate care and animal negligence of the
center’s thousands of primates.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now co-founder and executive director
Michael Budkie said at a Tuesday press conference in Lafayette that
internal documents obtained by the watchdog group reveal “primates
on campus are suffering from serious, often undiagnosed illnesses.”
“In some instances, the illnesses are discovered only when
monkeys have literally collapsed in their enclosures,” Budkie said.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained through the Freedom of
Information Act a full year of medical records from November 2007 to
October 2008 for 592 primates at the facility. Other partial data
included information about more than 1,000 other primates, Budkie
The colony of primates experienced 58 deaths in that year, or 10
percent of the total colony. Budkie said when applied to the
research center as a whole, the number equates to 650 primate deaths
per year at the facility.
Of 149 pregnancies, 48, about 33 percent, resulted in infant
mortality through either abortions, still births or infant death,
“Primates are not observed on a sufficient level,” Budkie said.
“It’s their job to prevent injuries and make sure primates are
healthy. Facilities like the one in New Iberia are not accomplishing
their stated goals. We feel federal funding should be taken away
The 61-page complaint sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
marks the third time in one year that the research center, the
largest primate research facility in the country, has come under
fire from animal rights groups.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a complaint against the center
in late 2008 for the deaths of nine primates the group said violated
the federal Animal Welfare Act. The complaint prompted a Feb. 18
USDA visit and inspection of the facility, but the inspection found
no evidence of Animal Welfare Act violations.
A few weeks later, the Humane Society of the United States filed
a complaint against the center following a nine-month undercover
investigation of the facility and expansive media coverage first
reported on ABC’s “Nightline.”
The USDA inspected the center March 17 and cited Animal Welfare
Act violations including problems with the center’s handling of
animals, environment enhancement of the animals and the facility’s
committee that oversees research protocol.
USDA inspectors revisited the center again in April and found no
noncompliance issues. The Humane Society’s complaint, however,
reached the desk of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who ordered a
complete investigation into the facility.
The investigation is complete, but the findings remain under
legal review, said USDA Animal and Plant Health Services spokesman
University officials maintain the Ohio-based watchdog group often
alleges Animal Welfare Act violations at universities and research
centers across the country because it wants biomedical research on
animals eliminated, according to a release from the university.
The school’s Animal Care and Use Committee will review the
records of animals Budkie cited, officials said.
“The university takes seriously any allegation of animal
mistreatment,” school officials said in the statement. “Animals play
a critical role in protecting the health of the nation.”
The center, which focuses on pharmaceutical testing and breeding,
is home to more than 6,000 primates, including 325 chimpanzees that
account for one-third of all chimpanzees being used for research in
The National Institutes of Health use the New Iberia Research
Center through grants and contracts with the National Institute of
Neurological Diseases and Stroke, the National Center for Research
Resources and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious
Diseases, according to a release from the university.
University officials argue Budkie’s “tactics” in stopping animal
research include issuing press releases, maintaining a Web site and
repeatedly requesting USDA investigations.
“We believe public scrutiny has the potential to have a real
impact on these facilities,” Budkie said.
See: University of Louisiana,
Return to Media