Sides of vivisection issue: Princeton University and animal research watchdog group

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Sides of vivisection issue: Princeton University and animal research watchdog group

By Pat Summers, NewJerseyNewsroom, June 17, 2011

A university where animal research, including experimentation, has taken place since the 70s and a “research watchdog” organization that monitors federal inspection reports, including violations, for such research facilities: basically, these are the two sides of vivisection – “The act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research.”

Earlier this month, the Times of Trenton and at least three other New Jersey newspapers publicized Princeton University being “slapped with violations” for how business is conducted in its primate testing facility.

The university had also been found in violation – both in its record keeping and its treatment of primates — after earlier US Dept. of Agriculture inspections. These visits occur annually at all facilities conducting research with animal species covered by the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.

On one side, Princeton University spokesperson Martin Mbugua maintains that animal research “requires a level of commitment that we maintain because [it] leads to breakthroughs that benefit, not only people, but also the environment, and even other animal species.”

Mbugua cites Princeton’s “multi-tiered system . . . to ensure the regular care and appropriate use of animals. . .,” topped by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) – a group required at all sites where animal research involving species regulated by the USDA or receiving funds from the Public Health Service (PHS) occurs.

On the other side, Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), says, “Animal research is not done humanely,” and he has years of USDA reports to prove it. Some primates are deprived of food; still others are killed when accidentally run through cage-washing systems.

“Really wild animals,” primates can “never be kept humanely in captivity,” Budkie says. In the laboratory setting, where they’re often kept in stainless steel cages for ease of cleaning, many of them “literally lose their minds.”

The 15 pages of USDA inspection reports on Princeton for 2008-2011 include allusions to a distressed marmoset ready to give birth and in need of veterinary medical care, whose condition was not reported to the attending veterinarian; water restriction protocols showing a possible pattern of depriving primates of water for a period greater than 24 hours; and use of a method to induce anesthesia not described in the protocol.

Also mentioned: a specific primate who had undergone two “major survival surgery procedures” even though the protocol limited such procedures to one; administration of an analgesic after a craniotomy (described as “a major survival surgical procedure”) on an “as-needed basis” – deemed “not appropriate to minimize discomfort and pain.”

And, although against the protocol, substances toxic to primates were observed in food storage and preparation areas; and expired drugs and bags of rabbit food past the six-month window were identified.

The USDA reports also mentions corrections of violations made either on the spot or by the deadlines specified. Mbugua, of Princeton University, notes that regarding the April 2011 inspection violations, a June 2011 inspection concluded that “all the non compliant items . . . have either been corrected or corrective actions are in progress.”

Regarding last year’s inspection, he points out, “For the most part, the issue for inspectors was documentation. It was the paperwork outlining the protocols; not the protocols or the experiments themselves.”

Mbugua says, “Princeton’s approach to animal care is based on a commitment . . .to ensure that our facilities make use of established best practices. Only animals that are well cared for can provide beneficial scientific data and help achieve research goals and outcomes.” He adds, “We maintain a robust animal husbandry unit.”

In his alert to NJ media contacts about Princeton’s 2011 USDA inspection results, Budkie, of SAEN, included the 15 pages mentioned above, which are accessible on line to anyone interested: (This is the searchable database of inspection reports on the USDA site, not just for labs, but for labs, exhibitors, dealers, breeders, and so on.)

Budkie also sent media reps a press release and a copy of his letter insisting the USDA impose a heavy fine on Princeton and suspend its primate experiments. “Animal research is not about science, it is not about human health, it IS about attracting grant money,” he believes.

SAEN’s ultimate goal, Budkie says, is “the elimination of the use of animals in laboratories.” Instead, animal research funding could go into clinical and epidemiological research, as well as into methods like tissue culture work. These provide much more useful information for human medicine. (

Princeton University animal researchers and SAEN research watchdogs represent the two sides of the vivisection debate. Will the twain ever meet? Who will win?

See also: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

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