UC Davis Primate Research Center searches for new PR firm
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UC Davis Primate Research Center searches for new PR firm
By Alyssa Vandenberg, TheAggie.com, January 3, 2016

PR search follows allegations of neglect, maltreatment of monkeys

In November, the seven National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) posted on the public relations news website, “Everything-PR,” that they are looking for a one-year relationship with a public relations (PR) firm. The UC Davis California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) is included as one of the centers.

UC Davis Associate Director of News and Media Relations Andy Fell said that the NPRC is looking for a PR firm in order to make other National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researchers aware of the research the primate centers yield. Lisa Newbern, chief of public affairs for the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, provided a statement via email on behalf of the NPRC that reiterates Fell’s comment.

“The seven National Primate Research Centers are seeking the services of a public relations agency to help us provide information about the importance of nonhuman primates in biomedical research, to increase awareness of the resources we offer to National Institutes of Health-funded researchers and to share the successes of our centers’ researchers, who are working to improve human health,” Newbern said.

However, the primate centers have faced widespread controversy for experimenting on nonhuman primates in their research. The UC Davis CNPRC, which houses over 5,000 primates, has received several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) negligence citations for incidents including escaped monkeys and the death of several primates.

Michael Budkie, the director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an organization that works towards exposing animal abuse, argues that the NPRC is actually searching for a PR firm in order to repair its damaged reputation, especially following the closure of Harvard’s Primate Research Center in 2013.

“What we see over and over again is that these facilities are failing at providing basic animal care, basic animal husbandry and at following the requirements of the animal welfare act,” Budkie said.

Lindsay Rubin, an organizer for the local activist group Free Davis Primates, agrees with Budkie; she stated that the public’s increasing knowledge regarding the NPRC has led to its need for a PR firm.

“The public is learning more about the USDA citations for negligence UC Davis has been found guilty of,” Rubin said. “More local residents are realizing primate research is outdated [and] can be replaced with more advanced models, especially with the recent closure of the Harvard primate lab, and UC Davis is feeling pressure to combat shifting public perception.”

Budkie believes that it would make more sense for the money the NPRC is using for the PR firm to go toward advances in technology that have the potential to help others.

“Their funding should be going toward doing things that are actually going to benefit people,” Budkie said.

Budkie adds that college students can get involved, as most of the NPRCs are affiliated with universities.

“College students are in a situation to become involved and become active because it’s on their campus,” Budkie said. “They can do everything from outreach events to protests to anything that can get launched on their campus […] the reality here is that students can have a very real impact.”

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