Leading monkey lab accused of 'fatal negligence'
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


February 2016

lab monkey
Image from PETA

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) asks USDA-APHIS to fine Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories the maximum

Accusing the U.S. facilities of the Japanese-owned company Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories of “fatal negligence” leading to the deaths of monkeys for at least the fourth time in eight years, Stop Animal Exploitation Now on January 27, 2016 asked the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to impose the maximum penalty of $10,000 per alleged violation of the U.S. federal Animal Welfare Act.

Added SAEN on February 1, 2016, “A government source has confirmed that the USDA has now opened an investigation into animal cruelty charges against the SNBL research facility” in Everett, Washington, about an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

lab monkey
Image from PETA

Died in restraint device

Elaborated SAEN, “A USDA inspection report from December 10, 2015 documents the death of a macaque monkey while in a restraint device. According to the report, the death was caused by insufficient personnel [apparently meaning not enough staff present to keep the monkeys under adequate observation.] This is not the first negligent death connected to SNBL,” SAEN emphasized. “Twenty-five primates died during or just after shipping in 2013. And another eight died at the SNBL facility in 2013.”

Thus, SAEN continued, “In approximately two years SNBL has been connected to the negligent deaths of 34 primates,” not counting deaths occurring as a deliberate part of experimental procedures.

Circa 100 monkey deaths since 2005

SAEN in 2012 released USDA reports documenting 40 monkey deaths at the SNBL breeding location in Alice, Texas. In 2008 SAEN exposed the death of a monkey who was accidentally scalded to death in a cage-washing machine at the Everett site, and in 2007 released USDA inspection reports from 2005 that described incidents leading to the deaths of 20 marmosets in SNBL custody within just three weeks.

Of all those incidents, and others leading to 133 alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2003-2007, the scalding of the single monkey drew the most critical attention.

How one macaque died

Summarized Wikipedia of allegations publicized by PETA, “In early November of 2007, hidden camera footage revealed that a wire kennel with a healthy female macaque monkey inside was put into a giant rack-washer. The 180-degree water, caustic foam and detergent killed the primate at some point during the 20-minute cycle.

“Prior to that incident,” the Wikipedia summary continued, “a former animal care supervisor claimed she was fired after alerting federal inspectors” to previous alleged Animal Welfare Act infractions purportedly including “carelessly spraying monkeys with acid [apparently a cage-cleaning solution] and intentionally slamming cages on the floor.”

“An animal unfortunately died in an accident,” SNBL vice president of operations Jim Klassen confirmed to Everett Herald writer Eric Fetters. “We, of course, immediately called the U.S. Department of Agriculture and they sent an inspector who investigated,” Klaassen said. “We wash 100,000 cages a year and have never, ever had anything like this happen before. We just don’t have accidental deaths here.”

Despite receiving national attention from SAEN and PETA, and extensive local media notice, the monkey scalding did not bring USDA charges.

Tall trees and security fencing

Meanwhile, SNBL won a reduction of fines for previous Animal Welfare Act violations, from $31,000 to $12,900, by pledging to make various improvements in procedures and facilities.

Before the 2007 monkey scalding, the SNBL Everett facility had quietly operated since 1999 from a 29-acre site almost in the shadow of the Boeing aircraft assembly plant in Everett, “tucked behind tall trees and security fencing,” Everett Herald writer Amy Nile reported in January 2014. “A Shinto shrine stands outside, honoring animals used in research.”

The SNBL-Everett staff has gradually increased from 26 in 1999 to 260 as of 2014, Nile wrote. Other sources indicate that SNBL-Everett may at peak have employed about 370 people.

Inside view

Inside the 200,000-square-foot SNBL building, Nile said, “The facility, which currently houses 1,200 monkeys, has room for up to 4,000. That’s in addition to hundreds of rabbits and dogs, and thousands of rodents.”

Although SNBL allowed Nile to tour “parts of the operation,” she wrote, “the company would not allow photographs of its animals, most of its employees, or images documenting conditions inside. The company’s security people also resisted exterior photos of the buildings and parking lots. The sterile facility has only a faint animal odor. The maze of long hallways, reminiscent of a hospital, features pass-through ports for moving specimens between secure areas.

Hot air rises and @#$% runs downhill

The rooms that house the test animals,” Nile was told, “are kept under positive air pressure to reduce the risk of germs entering.”

The phrase “kept under positive air pressure” may mean only that the rooms holding the animals are kept warmer than the hallways, so that air flows out instead of in when a door is opened.

The listed Everett site capacity includes housing for 10,830 mice, 4,410 rats, and 624 rabbits.

Clients “under wraps”

“Though SNBL’s client list remains under wraps due to the controversy surrounding animal testing,” Nile said, “it includes several major public universities that conduct medical research, such as the University of Washington. SNBL helps to develop biologic products, such as vaccines, cancer medicines, or gene therapies that address major medical defects. The Everett operation does not test the safety of consumer products such as cosmetics or shampoo.”

The SNBL-Alice facility came under scrutiny in April 2012, recounted Steven Alford of the Corpus Christi Caller Times, after SAEN “uncovered records from the University of Washington that show two monkeys died [at SNBL-Alice] from a form of tuberculosis in 2010 while another died of goat polio.”

“Emaciation, hypothermia, overheating”

SNBL-USA director of laboratory animal resources David Reim told Alford that the dead monkeys were believed to have become ill before they were acquired from a breeder in Indonesia.

“The animals’ causes of death included emaciation, hypothermia and overheating,” wrote Nile.

SNBL-USA vice president Mark Crane told Nile, Nile paraphrased, that “Some animals refused to eat and became emaciated because they were already sick. Because not eating doesn’t warrant euthanasia, the animals were emaciated when they died. The animals who died of hypothermia were being held in outdoor cages with external heaters. Two pigtail monkeys had apparently avoided the warmed area.”

Continued Nile, “Since the incident, Crane said, all cages have both indoor and outdoor areas. Pigtail monkeys are now kept indoors when the temperature drops, he said. The monkeys who died of overheating were chased when it was hot outside. To prevent future deaths, the company no longer captures monkeys when temperatures rise above 85 degrees.”

40,000 monkeys worldwide

Globally, SNBL reportedly holds more than 40,000 monkeys.

The Japanese parent firm, founded in 1957, is headquartered in Tokyo, with a second office in Osaka and laboratories in Kagoshima and Wayakama. Breeding centers in Ankor and Tian Hu, Cambodia supply monkeys to the Japanese locations and three in the U.S.: those in Everett and Alice, and a third laboratory occupying an entire city block in Baltimore.

“SNBL is the third-largest importer of primates in the U.S.,” according to PETA, “purchasing nearly 3,000 monkeys every year from China, Cambodia, Israel, and Indonesia—some snatched from their homes and families in the wild—for use in experiments.”

“78% are caged alone”

In August 2011 PETA claimed a campaign victory when China Southern Airlines “made the compassionate decision to cancel its plans to ship 80 monkeys from China to the U.S.,” a PETA media release said, “where they were going to end up in the hands of SNBL and Harlan Laboratories.”

Of the SNBL monkeys kept in the U.S., a PETA web page recounts, “A USDA report from 2011 documented that 78% are caged alone—in violation of federal law—unable to touch or interact in any way with other monkeys.”

Most of the SNBL monkeys appear to be housed outside the U.S., but USDA-APHIS records confirm that SNBL has ranked among the top ten importers of monkeys into the U.S. over the past decade, bringing in as many as 2,727 in 2010, and as few as 350 in 2006. The average appears to be circa 1,400.

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