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"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Articles and Reports

The Primate Experimentation Scandal, 2005: An Investigative Report
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN

Harvard University/New England National Primate Research Center

In January of 2003 the Division of Behavioral Biology at the New England National Primate Research Center (NENPRC affiliated with Harvard) assessed roughly 360 macaques and squirrel monkeys psychologically. 50 of the squirrel monkeys were found to be behaviorally abnormal, this accounts for 83% of the squirrel monkeys at NENPRC. 300 rhesus macaques were listed as behaviorally abnormal; this is 28% of the rhesus macaques at the center. Some of the primates in this category exhibited self-biting, or as many as 3 other abnormal behaviors. These behaviors are often considered to be the result of either social isolation or stress. Another section of the report lists that 362 rhesus macaques are individually housed, and that 321 (88.7%) of these animals exhibited at least one abnormal behavior. This could mean that a minimum of 371 primates (321 rhesus and 50 squirrel monkeys) at NENPRC are psychologically abnormal. Or, a minimum of 30% of the rhesus monkeys and 83% of the squirrel monkeys could be psychologically abnormal. The colony of 60 squirrel monkeys which are initially listed as being evaluated for abnormal behavior are a part of the research colony at NENPRC. The only research projects listed at NENPRC which use squirrel monkeys involve experimentation with addictive drugs (cocaine and heroin). Addiction experimentation can involve the use of primate restraint chairs, the subjecting of the subjects to withdrawal and/or electric shock. The source of the behavioral abnormalities in this group of primates may be the type of experimentation in which they are used.

However, it appears that the number of animals exhibiting these psychologically abnormal behaviors may be increasing. According to the progress report the number of primates assessed with abnormal behavior increased by 25 (7%) in a six-month period. This increase in abnormal behaviors could be caused by insufficient environmental enhancement by NENPRC staff. Or, it is highly possible that these primates are being deliberately maintained in conditions that promote abnormal behavior because they form the pool of subjects for several experiments at NENPRC, which depend on the existence of a population of animals with psychological pathologies. In fact, nine separate experiments at NENPRC are examining psychologically abnormal behavior in captive macaque monkeys. It appears that the funding which this experimentation brings to the research facility may be considered to be more important than the psychological well being of these primates.

It must also be noted that these statistics are not based on assessments of the total primate population within the center, but on assessments of small segments of the population. The actual percentage of primates with psychological abnormalities is likely to be much larger.

There are other indications that the primates at NENPRC are highly stressed. The summary section of this report for the pathology department lists the deaths of primates that were neonatal or abortions. This part of the report lists deaths of 47 cotton-top Tamarins as neonatal or abortions and another 20 deaths from spontaneous diseases. This is a very high death toll, especially since this report lists only 22 live births. It this is taken as a total of 69 pregnancies, then 68% of these pregnancies ended in death. In the common marmosets at NENPRC only 5 live births are listed. But, 80 neonatal deaths/abortions are listed. In other words 94% of these marmoset pregnancies ended in death. The death rate for the macaque monkeys was much lower, only 17 out of 109, or 16%. This gives us an overall infant mortality rate of 55%. The death of so many primates at or near birth is clearly an indication of highly stressed animals.

It is interesting to note that the necropsy section of the report lists 154 macaque monkeys dead of experimental causes, but the colony tables show only 126. What about those other 28 macaques? It is also very interesting that the necropsy tables list a total of 192 primates dead of experimental causes, but the colony tables list only 179. Again, what about those other 13 experimental deaths? The overall total of deaths at NENPRC was 426, this is about 25% of the overall total, or dead of either experimental causes or disease. This is a very high death rate and is indicative of highly invasive experimentation and highly stressed animals.

Go on to Oregon Health Sciences University/Oregon National Primate Research Center
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