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

Media Coverage

Second complaint

Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:07 PM CDT

LAFAYETTE — A research watchdog organization has filed another complaint against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center, demanding an investigation into what the group claims is overall inadequate care and animal negligence of the center’s thousands of primates.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now co-founder and executive director Michael Budkie said at a Tuesday press conference in Lafayette that internal documents obtained by the watchdog group reveal “primates on campus are suffering from serious, often undiagnosed illnesses.”

“In some instances, the illnesses are discovered only when monkeys have literally collapsed in their enclosures,” Budkie said.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now obtained through the Freedom of Information Act a full year of medical records from November 2007 to October 2008 for 592 primates at the facility. Other partial data included information about more than 1,000 other primates, Budkie said.

The colony of primates experienced 58 deaths in that year, or 10 percent of the total colony. Budkie said when applied to the research center as a whole, the number equates to 650 primate deaths per year at the facility.

Of 149 pregnancies, 48, about 33 percent, resulted in infant mortality through either abortions, still births or infant death, Budkie said.

“Primates are not observed on a sufficient level,” Budkie said. “It’s their job to prevent injuries and make sure primates are healthy. Facilities like the one in New Iberia are not accomplishing their stated goals. We feel federal funding should be taken away from them.”

The 61-page complaint sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture marks the third time in one year that the research center, the largest primate research facility in the country, has come under fire from animal rights groups.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a complaint against the center in late 2008 for the deaths of nine primates the group said violated the federal Animal Welfare Act. The complaint prompted a Feb. 18 USDA visit and inspection of the facility, but the inspection found no evidence of Animal Welfare Act violations.

A few weeks later, the Humane Society of the United States filed a complaint against the center following a nine-month undercover investigation of the facility and expansive media coverage first reported on ABC’s “Nightline.”

The USDA inspected the center March 17 and cited Animal Welfare Act violations including problems with the center’s handling of animals, environment enhancement of the animals and the facility’s committee that oversees research protocol.

USDA inspectors revisited the center again in April and found no noncompliance issues. The Humane Society’s complaint, however, reached the desk of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who ordered a complete investigation into the facility.

The investigation is complete, but the findings remain under legal review, said USDA Animal and Plant Health Services spokesman David Sacks.

University officials maintain the Ohio-based watchdog group often alleges Animal Welfare Act violations at universities and research centers across the country because it wants biomedical research on animals eliminated, according to a release from the university.

The school’s Animal Care and Use Committee will review the records of animals Budkie cited, officials said.

“The university takes seriously any allegation of animal mistreatment,” school officials said in the statement. “Animals play a critical role in protecting the health of the nation.”

The center, which focuses on pharmaceutical testing and breeding, is home to more than 6,000 primates, including 325 chimpanzees that account for one-third of all chimpanzees being used for research in the country.

The National Institutes of Health use the New Iberia Research Center through grants and contracts with the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, according to a release from the university.

University officials argue Budkie’s “tactics” in stopping animal research include issuing press releases, maintaining a Web site and repeatedly requesting USDA investigations.

“We believe public scrutiny has the potential to have a real impact on these facilities,” Budkie said.

See: University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA

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