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

Media Coverage

An animal-welfare organization has accused the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis with driving monkeys "insane."

Davis Enterprise, The (CA) 
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Author: Cory Golden; Enterprise staff writer

An animal-welfare organization has accused the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis with driving monkeys "insane."

Michael Budkie, executive director of Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, said that he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 14, accusing UCD of violating the Animal Welfare Act based on about 2,000 pages of medical records.

"The UC Davis primates illustrate the problem of insanity in U.S. lab primates," Budkie said. "Most of these animals are literally self-destructing, and the same can be said of monkeys in other labs."

The university countered that animal care is a top priority, its facilities are regularly inspected by the USDA, and that the research center is accredited and inspected by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.

As a result of the complaint, USDA inspectors have since toured the UCD facilities and found them to be in compliance with federal laws, UCD spokesman Andy Fell said. A call to USDA for confirmation was not immediately returned.

In a phone interview, Budkie said that the documents he secured last year through public records requests show that during 2007 and part of 2008, 404 monkeys died at the facility.

Necropsies showed 247 experienced a traumatic pathology of some kind resulting either from self-injury or attacks by cage mates during their lifetimes, Budkie said. Eighty-three had an appendage amputated while 117 suffered bite wounds and 105 major lacerations.

In his complaint, Budkie wrote that he found "the attitude of callousness and negligence at this facility to be nothing less than shocking It is clear that the staff of (UCD) systematically ignores injuries in primates allowing them to be diagnosed only at death."

Fell said in an e-mail message that UCD does not dispute the numbers "but we don't think they accurately characterize the situation."

Animals in the facility are given daily health checks, he said, and the center's environmental enrichment program provides toys, forage boards where animals can pick out corn and seeds as they would in the wild, videos and, in outside enclosures, swings and tires.

The staff puts "considerable effort" into preventing monkeys from harming themselves and "when it does occur, in treating it, sometimes using therapies that have been developed for the more than 2 million Americans that engage in self-injury."

Many of the injuries take place when monkeys fight in group enclosures that measure up to a half acre, he said.

"Rhesus monkeys are aggressive animals, and (the center) tries to house them, as much as possible, in groups that approximate the size and composition in nature," Fell said. "This is the best way to provide a rich and stimulating environment. Sometimes this type of housing results in animals injuring each other, just as occurs in nature. This is an outcome that we try to avoid in a variety of ways, through use of enrichment, removal of highly aggressive animals, etc.

"The only way to completely prevent social trauma would be to house the animals individually, which is not the best solution."

Budkie said that the records he requested were for monkeys used in experiments, however. Those animals are kept indoors, in single or double cages, he said, and are more prone to self-destructive behavior.

He said he found the multiple injuries suffered by individual animals particularly disturbing: 27 of them sustained 10 or more major injuries. One monkey, No. 24978, suffered six traumatic injuries, six lacerations, six bites, one fracture, two amputations, two abscesses and two other wounds that weren't categorized, Budkie said.

In the wild, a rhesus monkey might cover a square mile of territory in a day. Inside, labs often house them in 3 feet by 3 feet stainless-steel cages, with perhaps a perch and a toy.

"Primates have a psychological nature similar to ours," Budkie said. "If this were practiced on a human being, we wouldn't be surprised if that suffered psychological abnormalities. How would you like to be put in a steel room with only a chair and a rubber ball? That's it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no sunshine and often no contact with others of their species."

He said that the USDA has not responded to his complaint. Asked about UCD passing a subsequent inspection, he said, "that's possible."

"The situation I described, with that size of caging those are legal That doesn't mean they're adequate or will keep a primate from going insane," he said, adding that the Animal Welfare Act, as written, leans toward research and away from protecting animals.

SAEN's accusations "historically don't hold up well," Fell said.

"Although they style themselves as a 'watchdog,' their real objective is to shut down all research involving animals research that benefits both human and animal health," he added.

The center at UCD houses about 4,700 monkeys mostly rhesus macaques and some cynomolgus monkeys and South American titi monkeys according to its Web site.

Budkie's claims came on the heels of a report last week by ABC's "Nightline." It detailed accusations by three former employees of abuse at the nation's largest primate testing lab, the University of Louisiana's New Iberia Research Center. Among the hidden camera footage shot for the Humane Society of the United States were images of a chimpanzee on a perch being shot with a tranquilizer gun, a monkey being hit in the teeth with a metal bar to make it open its mouth and apparently stressed chimps spinning in their cages.

The USDA has said it will investigate the New Iberia facility.

Online: http://www.cnprc.ucdavis.edu, http://www.saenonline.org .   

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