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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Animal-rights group asks feds to examine university's New Iberia site

Posted January 28, 2009

An Ohio-based animal-rights watchdog group has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate UL's New Iberia Research Center.

In a Tuesday letter to USDA official Robert Gibbens, the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now alleges that nine primates have died at the New Iberia facility in recent years and that others may be suffering from serious undiagnosed illnesses.

"I request you initiate action to levy the most substantial fine allowable and suspend projects, which involve repeat violations," SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie wrote in the letter. "I find the attitude of callousness and negligence at NIRC to be nothing less than shocking."

In a statement, Johnny Hardcastle, head of animal resources at NIRC, said the center was not aware of any investigation.

"The New Iberia Research Center has not been made aware of any USDA investigation concerning issues of animal health and well-being," Hardcastle said. "At such time that we receive information of an investigation, we will cooperate fully with the USDA."

In the letter, Budkie wrote that one chimpanzee that died in November 2007 had only received fiber tablets since 2005, but that several conditions were noted when the animal died. Among those conditions, Budkie said, were muscle atrophy, a distended abdomen, fluid in the abdomen and a heart problem.

Another chimpanzee that reportedly died in August 2006 had undergone a vasectomy only a few days before, Budkie said, despite the fact it reportedly had a heart condition. A third chimpanzee died of gastric bloat, which is often related to an improper diet, Budkie said.

"Additionally, his records do not list any treatment for this condition; it was discovered only at death," Budkie said. "I believe that this indicates inadequate observation of this animal."

Budkie also wrote in the letter that four monkeys that reportedly died at the facility had medical conditions that may have gone untreated, including intestinal blockage, enlarged kidneys and septicemia, a blood infection.

Two infant primates also reportedly died because of maternal neglect or trauma, Budkie said. In a phone interview, Budkie said such problems can sometimes arise out of the psychological stress of being in captivity.

"It's not surprising that it would really stress the animals and cause them to engage in self-destructive behavior," he said. "This also caused disruption in the relationship between mother and offspring, and one of the infants killed had serious injuries. It's a mother literally attacking her offspring."

Budkie said the information about the New Iberia center came from the facility's own internal records. SAEN monitors several such facilities across the country and receives documents about many of them on a regular basis, he said.

All of the records said to be from NIRC will be posted on the group's Web site in the next couple of days, Budkie said.

According to the site, the group frequently files complaints and investigates animal research facilities across the country, many of them associated with universities.

The NIRC Web site says the center includes "diversified animal housing systems" of varying sizes both indoors and outdoors, extensive diagnostic equipment, a 12,000 square foot diagnostic lab and a surgical suite.   

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