Animal activist group files complaint against Primate Center

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Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
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Animal activist group files complaint against Primate Center

By Brad Petrishen,, Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Harvard Medical School yesterday denied an allegation launched by an animal rights group that it failed to report another monkey death at its New England Primate Research Center.

In a March 20 letter to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Michael Budkie, executive director of the Ohio-based animal rights organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now, says that a whistleblower “connected to” the center revealed details of a non-reported death at the facility.

Budkie said the whistleblower told him that a monkey died about seven months ago after a center employee performed a “fairly routine” medical procedure.

“This can only mean that this procedure was clearly botched, and that the negligence which caused this cost the animal his/her life,” Budkie wrote.

Budkie called for a thorough investigation of the death and for Harvard to be fined the maximum amount allowed by law. Individual violations of the Animal Welfare Act are punishable by fines of up to $10,000.

USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said yesterday that the complaint will be investigated in accordance with standard procedure.

“We will do so by sending an inspector to this facility in the near future to conduct an inspection,” he wrote in an email, adding that inspections are always unannounced so the exact date cannot be disclosed.

“Suffice it to say, that because of the recent incidents at Harvard’s primate research center, it will be soon,” he wrote. “We will continue to closely monitor this facility by visiting more frequently as a way to monitor Harvard’s progress and ensure the welfare of the animals there.”

Harvard self-reported a death at the facility that occurred on Feb. 26 — the same day details of a separate monkey death came out in a USDA inspection report.

Four monkeys have died at the facility in the past two years, and three of those deaths have occurred since September. Fred Wang, who became interim director of the center in September, stepped down from the post shortly after the fourth death was announced, citing personal and professional reasons.

In a statement, Harvard Medical School said yesterday that a monkey died around the same time Budkie says, but it insisted the death wasn’t the result of negligence.

“The information provided is incorrect,” the school wrote, adding that while a monkey did die in August 2011, it did so from a complication of an approved procedure.

“Our review indicates that the animal received appropriate veterinary care and post-operative checks, and it was observed to be recovering normally from the procedure,” the school wrote.

“Regrettably, there are risks associated with surgical procedures, and this death resulted from a known complication.

“It was not required that an incident of this type be reported to the federal government.”

Budkie took issue with Harvard’s explanation.

“If a normal recovery took place, the monkey would still be alive,” he said. “If everything that happened to this monkey was routine and acceptable, then I would like to ask Harvard to make the records for this primate available to the public so that an independent evaluation can be performed.”

(Brad Petrishen can be reached at 508-490-7463 or [email protected] For Southborough news throughout the day, follow him at

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