SAEN’s work against animal experimentation is usually based on
information obtained through in-depth investigations. It is very rare to
have the opportunity to work with someone who has been on the inside and
has seen the realities of animal experimentation first hand.
In February of 2006, we were contacted by Cheri Stevens, a former animal
caretaker, who had worked at the California Primate Research Center (CPRC)
for approximately 3 years, ending in 2005. She truly cared for the
primates which were her responsibility and worked to give them the best
possible quality of life. She left voluntarily due to conflict with
management -- they knew that truly caring for the animals was her first
On Wednesday, October 11th SAEN’s Executive
Director, Michael Budkie traveled to Sacramento to coordinate the
dramatic news conference which would release Cheri Stevens’ detailed
statement to the media along with information from internal documents
obtained by SAEN through the California Public Records Act.
CPRC records revealed that primates within this facility suffered from
many serious pathological conditions including pneumonia, enteritis, and
peritonitis. Many of these animals had reached a point of severe
emaciation (starvation) or dehydration (lack of water). This clearly
indicates that they had been allowed to suffer unnecessarily and may
have been denied adequate veterinary care.
Trauma is also
frequent among the primates at CPRC. Both adult fighting and infant
abuse is commonplace, clearly exposing the severely stressful nature of
life inside a laboratory.
Cheri’s statements revealed
extreme cruelty and neglect at CPRC. She spoke in general terms and
about individual animals. She discussed a highly invasive procedure
which is common at many facilities:
“There is nothing
humane about placing a post on an animal's head that is held in place
dental acrylic. First there is little room for error in the surgical
procedure necessary to provide such an inhumane way to ensure an animal
will remain still, whether they voluntarily wish to do so or not. More
often than not infections will develop at the site of the head post
unless cleaned more often than just daily.”
experiences with two individual primates, Buzz and an infant, reveal the
overall situation at CPRC. Buzz’s problems began when a researcher
injured him during a procedure:
“Barnes wounded the
animal's eardrum, possibly unbeknownst to her, for nothing was done to
care for the injuries received. Buzz was reported several times by
animal techs during morning health rounds for having oozing ears.
. . . When he finally was taken in by therapeutics, it was found that
what had started out as an outer ear infection created by the wound
inflicted by Barnes had at that point escalated into a brain abscess.
Buzz was in much pain during his last days. I expressed concern and
asked why he was being kept alive even though he was clearly in pain; I
was told that they were waiting to be able to collect data. If they
euthanized him to end his suffering, all research data would be lost. .
. . By prolonging his death for research the investigator clearly stated
that this animal’s welfare was secondary to her research.”
An infant primate which Cheri befriended had a sad end:
“I reached into the cage and “introduced myself.” It
took little convincing and in no time the animal warmed up to me. I
was able to get him to drink the liquid therapeutics provided and got
him to eat a little of the rice cereal and grapes in his cage. He grew
more and more comfortable with me and eventually even let me hold him.
I stayed through lunch to care for him, and he seemed to be coming
around. I left the animal for some time to feed the other animals I
was responsible for that day, and quickly returned to his cage when I
was finished. I carefully bundled the animal in a towel and removed
him from his cage. I took a seat on a stool and just held him close.
The animal became so comfortable that he fell asleep on my chest for
what I was told was the first time since he had been in therapeutics.
The time for me to go home was quickly approaching, and I was having
trouble with the idea of leaving him. I thought about staying, but for
how long? I could not move in. I had to go home some time. Finally
around 4:15 I decided I had done all that I could and certainly more
than anyone else. He already was showing signs of improvement so I
placed him back in his cage, still sleeping and went home for my two
The following day I made a few calls to
therapeutics to check on the infant primate but was not able to reach
anyone and no one returned my phone calls. When I returned to work, I
found out that the very next day, my first day off, they decided to
euthanize him. I was told that there was nothing that they could do
for him so they euthanized him. I could not believe it. I had done so
much for him that resulted in so little. I have felt guilty for so
long, because when I left I knew that no one would take the time to
help him eat, drink, or even make him feel secure. But I know now that
it was not my fault that the primate did not make it. It is the fault
of the CNPRC for the ideas that they silently instill. To them the
infant primate was just an animal beneath them, just a number that
could be replaced this year or the next. To me he is one of many
reasons to stand up against the evils of animal exploitation.”
The shocking information revealed at this news conference sped across
media in northern California, with many television and radio stations
carrying the story.
The following day SAEN announced the filing of an official complaint
with the USDA, requesting an immediate investigation of the California
Primate Research Center. This story again galvanized the media, with an
Associated Press story speeding across the globe, even reaching media
outlets as far away as France and Russia.
In a story carried by the Sacramento Bee newspaper, Dallas Hyde,
Director of the CPRC, announced that a committee will conduct an
internal investigation of the CPRC.
In addition to filing a complaint with the USDA, SAEN staff had
requested a meeting with UC Davis staff. However, in an article
published in the Aggie (the UC Davis student paper) UC Davis
spokesperson Andy Fell said, "There are no plans for UC Davis
representatives to meet with this group."
We cannot adequately thank Cheri Stevens for the courage she has shown
by coming forward to tell the public the truth about the abuse and
neglect experienced by monkeys at CPRC. We will continue to work with
her to insure that her bravery will result in real changes. You can help
by contacting UC Davis Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef to demand that he
meet with SAEN’s Executive Director, Michael Budkie, to address serious
concerns about the overall situation within the California Primate
Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef
Mrak Hall, Fifth Floor University of California, Davis One Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616
For further information, please go to the SAEN website at:
www.saenonline.org where both
Cheri Stevens’ statement and the prepared statement issued by SAEN’s
Executive Director, Michael Budkie, are posted in their entirety for
your reading. Other information on the SAEN website about the UC Davis
laboratories can be found in our Facilities and Reports section and in
the Protocols for Animal Use and Care section which contains over 170 UC
Davis Primate Research protocols in their entirety.