Research on Primates Protested
Activists demonstrate at center in Southboro
By Linda Bock 10/27/03
Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff
Protesting primate experimentation yesterday at
Harvard University's New England Regional Primate Research Center are,
from left, Sharon M. Nietsche, Steven W. Baer and Eric M. Pierce. (T&G
Staff / CHRISTINE PETERSON)
Southboro – Seven people stood in soft rain on a
gloomy afternoon yesterday outside Harvard University’s New England
Regional Primate Research Center and peacefully protested the use of
primates in experimentation.
“It’s a quality thing, not a quantity thing,” said
Michael A. Budkie of Ohio, executive director of Stop Animal
Exploitation Now, of the small number of protesters.
However, Don L. Gibbons, a spokesman for Harvard
Medical School, said there is no inhumane treatment of animals at the
primate research center. In fact, he said, the primates are treated more
like patients than research subjects.
The protest was part of a series of national
demonstrations for National Primate Liberation Week, organized by Stop
Animal Exploitation Now – or SAEN, for short.
The animal research watch organization, with
headquarters in Milford, Ohio, notes that more than a half-billion
dollars annually is spent to experiment on about 100,000 primates
nationally, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
Protesters said they are drawing attention this week
to practices at federally funded centers, where researchers experiment
on monkeys to try to find cures for human diseases. According to SAEN,
most research primates are not used in experiments on diseases that kill
most Americans. Projects that study primate psychology, alcohol and
addictive drugs, brain mapping and sex far outnumber studies involving
heart disease or cancer, they say.
The two-hour protest began at 1p.m. outside the
primate research center, off Parmenter Road at the Marlboro line.
Marlboro police and Harvard University police monitored the protest.
There were no arrests, according to Marlboro police.
Veteran activist Steven W. Baer of Spencer coordinated
the protest for SAEN. He is also a member of Massachusetts Action for
“It’s not right to harm animals,” Mr. Baer said. “I
think we should be using noninvasive methods to gather the same
information.” The animal rights organization recommends eliminating
redundant experiments across the country; accurate reporting by
laboratories; and more congressional and public oversight of primate
“I’m very upset. I’m here because I’m against primate
experimentation,” said Sharon M. Nietsche of Worcester, one of two
candidates in the District 5 Worcester City Council race. She is
affiliated with the Massachusetts Green Party.
While Ms. Nietsche said she could not point to
specifics about the primate research center, she said Harvard University
is not treating animals humanely.
Mr. Gibbons said the university was expecting
yesterday’s protest, because there generally is one every year.
“Did you see their signs?” Mr. Gibbon asked, noting
that they were the same signs the protesters carried year after year.
The signs grossly misrepresent the treatment of primates, he said.
“We have not had some of those species at our facility
for years,” he said.
Mr. Gibbons said the research center, a 140-acre
campus, is funded and operated by the National Institutes of Health. It
is one of seven regional primate centers in the nation. About 2,000
primates are housed there, where several diseases, including Aids and
attention deficit disorder, are researched.
Mr. Budkie of SAEN, however, said primate research is
not helping to provide cures for human diseases.
“There are significant questions about the actual
utility of primates as research subjects,” Mr. Budkie said. “Many
scientists are suggesting that primates have not contributed to advances
in diseases that are killing humans, including cancer, HIV, and heart
But Mr. Gibbons said there has been significant
research at the center over the years.
“The primates are treated like patients,” Mr. Gibbons
said. “If a human would have anesthesia, then the monkey would have
anesthesia. If a human would have a painkiller, then a monkey would have
The animals have been treated respectfully, he said,
with no significant violation of rules for the treatment of primates
over the years.
“Those are random inspections,” Mr. Gibbons said. The
primate center is inspected, usually in unannounced visits, by the NIH,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the state Department of Public
Health, he said.
The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Rescue league also inspect the
facility according to Mr. Gibbons.
Besides Mr. Budkie, Mr. Baer and Ms. Nietsche, Eric M.
Pierce of Somerville, Diane L. Moreau of Wayland, Gordon T. Davis of
Worcester, and Mary M. Bennett of Spencer were at the site to protest
the use of primates in medical research yesterday.
“I’m here because I’m against any type of animal
experimentation,” Ms. Bennett said.