Animal Rights Group Accuses Harvard Medical School of Violating the Animal Welfare Act
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now



Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
Director, USDA, Eastern Region
(919) 855-7100
[email protected]
[email protected]


Please LEVY a MAXIMUM FINE against the Harvard Medical School, for their blatant disregard of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when their negligence allowed a monkey to die of strangulation. This behavior must NOT be tolerated and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


Animal Rights Group Accuses Harvard Medical School of Violating the Animal Welfare Act

From, December 5, 2019

“This incident clearly violates Sec. 2.38 Misc (f)(1) Animal Handling for failure to handle animals as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort,” the SAEN complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on November 30 said.

According to a Harvard Medical School report, filed with the National Institutes of Health, the macaque had strangled herself on her hanging surrogate cover, which was being used for enrichment.

“The macaque had ripped a hole in the surrogate cover and stuck her head through it,” the report said. “In response, all hanging surrogates and large cloths were removed from the cages. Lab, animal care, and veterinary staff are “re-evaluating all aspects of the surrogate enrichment program.”

SAEN in its complain stated, “Since this project involves socially isolating primates, including preventing them from even seeing human or primate faces, it is highly likely that this project caused these animals to experience unrelieved distress due to lack of normal social interaction with members of their own species, or humans.”

The group is calling for a full scale investigation into the incident.

“I insist that your office launch a full investigation of the incidents surrounding this death and these fraudulent reports, and at the conclusion of the investigation, punish this criminal laboratory with the maximum penalty of $10,000 per infraction/per animal,” noted Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director.

Meanwhile, Harvard Medical School released a statement regarding the incident, wherein it tried justifying animal experiments by stating that primate research is helping to eradicate diseases such as AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

“We will continue to work to ensure that the important research will further medical breakthroughs, while being conducted in an ethical manner,” the school said.

Nonhuman primates (NHPs) are the closest living relatives of humans sharing the same genetics (up to 98 percent), physiology and behavior, thus, making them most suitable for research projects aimed at preventing, curing or ameliorating human diseases.

While 95 percent of the animals used in scientific and medical research consists of rats and mice, NHPs (mostly monkeys), are the link between smaller animals and people. Once a disease or drug is understood in smaller species – like rats, mice, birds, zebrafish and worms – it is often then studied in monkeys.

NHPs have played an instrumental role in the development and advancement of medical treatments and cures that have saved the lives of millions.

Research with NHPs has led to the discoveries of polio vaccine, coronary bypass surgery, hip replacements, kidney dialysis, organ transplants, blood transfusions, HIV/AIDS medications and several other ailments.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of monkeys used in U.S. biomedical research reached an all time hight in 2017.

Scientists used 75,825 nonhuman primates for research in 2017, up 22% since 2015 and 6% since 2008. The increase came amidst a surge in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supports much of the nonhuman primate research in the United States.

But the use of NHPs for research related works have also been facing growing scrutiny over the years.

A group of animal welfare organizations including the Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic, sued the US Department of Agriculture (USAD) last month for allegedly ignoring a 2014 petition calling on the federal agency to protect non-human primates used in lab research.

The plaintiffs accused the USDA of violating the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires federal agencies to respond to rulemaking petitions within a “reasonable” amount of time.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, nearly 52% of Americans opposed research involving animals.

That being said, work is also being done to put an end to animal testing resulting in a surge of alternative technologies and methods in recent years.

For example, the UK follows the 3R rule when using animals in experiments.

The principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) were developed over 50 years ago providing a framework for performing more humane animal research.

The 3Rs are:

  • Replacement: methods which avoid or replace the use of animals in research
  • Reduction: use of methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals.
  • Refinement: use of methods that alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance animal welfare for the animals used.

New approaches are also being added to the list of emerging, animal-free technologies every year.

One such technology which could fundamentally reduce the need for animals in laboratory experiments is the ‘organ-on-a-chip’, a multi-channel 3-D microfluidic cell culture chip that recapitulate the microarchitecture and functions of living human organs, including the lung, intestine, kidney, skin, bone marrow and blood-brain barrier etc.

Each Organ Chip is composed of a clear flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick that contains hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human organ-specific cells interfaced with a human endothelial cell-lined artificial vasculature, and mechanical forces can be applied to mimic the physical microenvironment of living organs, including breathing motions in lung and peristalsis-like deformations in the intestine.

Organ Chip are essentially living, three-dimensional cross-sections of major functional units of whole living organs, that has the potential to replace animal studies by offering an alternative and more ethical disease model.

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