SAEN LogoU. accused of violating Animal Welfare Act in marmoset monkey incident
Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

U. accused of violating Animal Welfare Act in marmoset monkey incident
By Cassidy Tucker,, April 13, 2015

Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an activist group that monitors U.S. research laboratories, filed a complaint last week against the University with the Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Negligence at a University laboratory in March 2014 resulted in the injury of two marmoset monkeys, SAEN alleged in its complaint.

Two marmosets, one male and one female, escaped from their cages, according to Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti’s report of the incident that was obtained by The Daily Princetonian. The female marmoset was recaptured and sustained no injuries. The male marmoset, however, fought with a male from another cage.

Debenedetti did not respond to requests for comment.

The incident was reported as required to the federal government and will be reviewed by a Department of Agriculture veterinary medical officer during the next inspection, media relations specialist Min Pullan said. The last routine inspection in September 2014 found no violations, she added.

The Department of Agriculture did not respond to requests for comment.

As a result, SAEN filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, alleging unqualified personnel and improper enclosures at the University’s laboratory. SAEN is seeking that the University pay the maximum penalty of $10,000 per infraction per animal.

“The documentation which we have obtained relevant to Princeton indicates that there is a serious level of negligence there,” Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, said. “If laboratories like Princeton can’t accomplish very basic requirements like keeping animals in the cages, then why should we believe they can do science?”

The caged male marmoset received superficial wounds and bruising, according to the University’s documentation, and the escaped male marmoset sustained injuries that required veterinary care. Both animals received treatment and healed without complications.

An outside firm retained by the University launched an investigation to determine how the animals escaped from the caging, the University’s report said. Multiple individuals had reportedly been in and out of the room the day before the incident. However, an exact cause for the escape could not be determined.

While the University’s report did not name the experimenter involved, Alka Chandna, a PETA senior laboratory oversight specialist who has helped to file other ethical complaints against the University over its treatment of marmoset monkeys, alleged that the incident took place in the lab of psychology professor Asif Ghazanfar.

Ghazanfar declined to comment.

“This is not the first time and not the second time this has happened,” Chandna said. “To our knowledge, this is the third and maybe fourth time that his laboratory has been called to question for problems and abuse of animals. … I think he really should be called to account for what is going on.”

Students interviewed said the University should deal with the allegations over its treatment of animals.

“I personally think that Princeton should make an explanation for why this happened,” Ogulcan Bayol ’18 said.

Alexandra Eakes ’17 said she is in support of scientific research using animals, but she said she does not support a careless lab.

“There is incompetence and negligence at Princeton laboratories, and PETA has called on them to relocate the marmosets,” Chandna said. “There have been 23 animal welfare violations at Princeton University since 2009.”

Chandna said the University was to blame for not taking decisive enough action to resolve the allegations against it.

“The administration at Princeton seems to be more interested in sweeping problems under the rug,” she said.

Budkie, however, said the animal research system in general was at fault as well.

“The bottom line is that the animal research system is essentially broken beyond repair,” he said.

See also:

Return to Media Coverage