A complaint from an animal welfare group has triggered
a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of the California National
Primate Research Center, housed at the University of California, Davis.
USDA inspected the facility, one of eight National
Institutes of Health-funded primate labs across the country, after the
group complained that nearly 10,000 macaque monkeys subjected to
invasive skull procedures in 2000 and 2001 were not listed as
experiencing "unrelieved pain and distress" as required under the Animal
Welfare Act, according to records obtained by the group, Stop Animal
SAEN Executive Director Michael A. Budkie told USDA in
the July 29 complaint that "The research protocols … attach devices to
the skulls of macaque monkeys, place electrodes into their brains,
confine them to restraint chairs, deprive them of water and subject them
to social isolation.
"Yet not a single primate is listed as having
experienced unrelieved pain or distress. Surely, this stretches the
credulity of any thinking person," he said. "The only conclusion that
can be reached is that the officials at UC Davis are deliberately
misclassifying these experiments."
Center Director Dallas Hyde told BNA that Budkie is
wrong in thinking the animals suffered. Implanted primates behave
normally, Hyde said, indicating that the experiments do not cause
unrelieved pain and distress and do not need to be reported as such.
He suggested Budkie anthropomorphized the animals'
USDA found no current incidents of noncompliance on
its Aug. 9 visit, Hyde said. One inspector spent five hours at the
facility inspecting roughly 4,600 primates there.
UC Davis necropsy reports Budkie obtained show that
about 50 primates were emaciated or dehydrated or both when they died, a
point made in the SAEN complaint.
Hyde said that was most likely due to chronic
diarrhea, a common problem among infant lab primates.
Other diseases and conditions listed in necropsy
reports included meningitis, encephalitis, and endometriosis, according
to the complaint.
SAEN Investigations Continue.
An earlier complaint of misclassification submitted by
SAEN to USDA last fall prompted the University of Wisconsin to better
enforce rules for reporting lab animal pain and distress (2 MRLR 888,
"We hope at the very least we might have that same
kind of impact [at Davis]," Budkie told BNA.
Schools have an incentive to keep animals out of the
unrelieved pain and distress category in their annual USDA lab-animal
reports because experimenters must justify why animals were allowed to
suffer, Budkie said. "In [explaining why], you usually have to explain
what the experiment is," he said, and the potential public scrutiny is
an incentive to misclassify.
Budkie said he currently is reviewing additional
documents from the California center and investigating other NIH primate
labs. A complaint against the University of Washington in Seattle is in
the works, and he also is investigating what he considers a high
incidence of infant mortality at the Oregon Primate Center.
Animal welfare demonstrators protested outside the
California center in early August and were covered by local media. The
added scrutiny comes as the center plans an expansion to house about 500
more primates, in part for bioterrorism research, Hyde said.
There are about 25,000 primates at the eight NIH
centers, which both breed and experiment on the animals.
By M. Alexander Otto
SAEN's report on the California National Primate
Research Center is available on the Web at
Copyright 2004, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.,