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S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe
out animal experimentation"
Medical school cited in largest-ever U.S. animal testing complaint
Cincinnati animal rights watchdog accuses
Student Life Newspaper 12/2/2001
By Rajas Pargaonkar
National animal rights watchdog Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) has
filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after compiling
an audit report of 50 of the nation's leading research institutions,
including the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM).
The complaint stems from SAEN's allegations that primates involved in the
institutions' studies, mostly rhesus and squirrel monkeys, were being
denied adequate food and water in addition to being held in painful
It is the single largest animal testing complaint in U.S. history,
alleging violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Michael Budkie, author of the report and executive director of SAEN,
argued that the invasive nature of primate experimentation has resulted in
universities under-reporting on the number of these projects.
"If [laboratories] are using painful or stressful techniques without the
benefit of anesthesia—it has to be reported as such—that's not something a
lot of these laboratories want to do, and as a result, this kind of
experimentation is under-reported," said Budkie.
Budkie stated that SAEN came to this conclusion after investigating many
of the reports published by researchers who were involved with aspects of
primate research such as brain mapping, drug addiction tests and primate
"When we started cross-referencing all of the information from USDA
inspection reports and [the National Institutes of Health] databases with
the reports universities were filing, we found that 94 percent were not
reporting accurately," said Budkie. "We also found out that at least 40
percent of these laboratories are routinely depriving primates of food
Budkie additionally claimed that an "insider" photograph was smuggled out
of a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that demonstrated
researchers using painful restraints on primates during experiments.
"We went through the process of verifying that these pictures could be
accurate. We then checked with research projects going on at MIT and found
that this type of research could be going on [at MIT]," said Budkie.
Budkie stated that many primate experiments used highly invasive implants.
He cited the procedure of WUSM researchers in a primate experiment, during
which they implanted a plate directly under the skull.
"Juvenile rhesus monkeys were chronically implanted with a circular,
molted, acrylic ring that was anchored by a T-bolt under the skull," said
He noted that the research being performed might not be useful in studying
animals due to the highly stressful conditions they are placed under
"[The research] may not be relevant to primates for a number of reasons.
Having the animal confined in a lab is very stressful and when you take
added steps of bolting devices into their skulls…doing this puts the
animals under stress and modifies their body chemistry," said Budkie.
When asked why universities would continue to perform such experiments if
there was no benefit to the canon of medical knowledge, Budkie cited
financial reasons for their persistence.
"I think they are being done to keep money coming into the universities. A
tremendous amount of money comes into the university in the form of
federal grants," he said.
But the vice chancellor for research at WUSM, Dr. Henry Cicero, expressed
surprise at the inclusion of WUSM in the SAEN report.
"I was a little distressed particularly since we didn't participate in any
survey. The survey itself looks as if it was conducted by looking at what
was available as free information as a part of the Freedom of Information
Act," said Cicero. "I was a bit surprised to see us listed there."
Cicero stated that the university does conduct experiments which involve
the skull implantation technique SAEN noted, adding that such experiments
were rare and done only with the animals under full anesthesia.
Most of the research involving primates at WUSM, according to Cicero,
deals with mapping the brain, particularly the functional areas that
control cognition and memory.
Cicero dismissed SAEN's claim that institutions would deprive primates of
food and water for hours or even days, stating that food and water
deprivation were done sparingly.
"They are often withheld water overnight for training purposes. They learn
to press a bar for water or food. They may be deprived for eight to ten
hours [maximum] but then they are fully allowed to feed and take water
on," said Cicero.
In response to SAEN's allegation that researchers often used painful
restraints, Cicero commented that restraints were used at WUSM, but not
for the extended lengths of time as SAEN claimed in the report.
"The only restraint would be for procedures during the day for one or two
hours. The animals would be taken out of their cages and put into a chair
that just keeps them from interfering with the experimental equipment. The
animals are immediately released and spend twenty-two hours a day living
free in a cage," said Cicero.
SAEN believes that all animal experimentation was unbeneficial, and that
the country at large would be better off with a comprehensive ban. Dr.
Cicero noted that the researchers would disagree.
"Most of us would ascertain that the use of animal models in particular
help us understand human diseases and human function. We have a very
stringent review process, and protocols are only approved under the
supervision of strict veterinary care," said Dr. Cicero.
The SAEN report also accused research institutions such as WUSM of
carrying on animal experimentation to keep employees paid and in general
by keeping federal funding flowing into the institutions.
"That's simply not true. We get as much money doing research with humans
as we do with animals," said Cicero.
Cicero added that animal rights groups like SAEN were too critical of
medical research and were attacking what he believed was a very limited
use of animals.
"With all the causes one can go after with respect to animals such as food
consumption, furs, and those type of things, they focus on a very small
use of animals, and I stress how small this use of animals is for medical
research," he said.
Cicero stated that in general WUSM and similar institutions were not
abusing the rights of animals, and that claiming such was a gross
"I think that there is always a position for us to debate in an open
forum. We are very much for the welfare of animals. At the same time we
have to balance the welfare of animals with the welfare of people," he
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