Media Credit: Alex Balistreri/Cardinal File
The Primate Research Center must be more
precise in reporting research done on monkeys.
The University of Wisconsin Primate Research Center will be more
precise in reporting pain and distress experiments this year as
researchers adhere to more rigid clarifications regarding the
definition of distress, said Chris Coe, a graduate professor at the
Primate Research Center.
Animal research laboratories have faced increasing pressure from
animal-rights activist groups for several years to implement
stricter reporting guidelines, but ambiguous reporting categories
remain intact. Most recently, Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a
complaint Oct. 24 with the United States Department of Agriculture
against UW-Madison Primate Research Center, claiming distress and
primate deaths are inaccurately reported.
Pain and distress categories, as regulated by the USDA, range from
category C, where animals experience no pain or distress, to
category E, where animals endure pain and distress without drug
relief. The USDA defines pain as more than momentary pain or
Since distress varies from animal to animal and is open to
individual interpretation, some researchers might underreport
psychological distress in their subjects.
"Most [nationwide] researchers underreport distress categories
because there is no good definition of distress," Coe said.
Additionally, Coe said he believes the USDA should create a separate
category that differentiates between pain and distress to help
alleviate ambiguity and facilitate accurate reporting.
Mary Beth Sweetland, senior vice president and director of research
and investigation for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, also
advocates a separate category for pain and distress and said she
believes current regulations are unscientific.
"USDA categories are woefully inadequate and you don't need to be a
rocket scientist to understand that these categories are nonsense,"
Sweetland said. "Whoever is doing the experiment is arbitrarily
designating pain and distress categories."
Coe and Sweetland disagree regarding the definition of distress.
According to Sweetland, the essence of laboratory life and living in
captivity induces stress. Coe's definition requires an element of
time and pathology.
"Distress is not every momentary disturbance, but enough disturbance
to cause prolonged physical change, typically in a sense of
pathological change," Coe said.
Joseph W. Kemnitz, director of the Wisconsin Primate Research
Center, said he does not believe a more rigid clarification of
distress will lead to more category E classifications but might lead
to more informed and comprehensive data.
He also said investigators are more involved than years passed when
differentiating between pain and distress but admitted the
difficulty of defining distress in universal terms.
"Distress is quite subjective," Kemnitz said. "You have to look at
the animals to make a judgment and we are requiring every
investigator who uses animals to do that."