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

Media Coverage

Research on Primates Protested
Activists demonstrate at center in Southboro
By Linda Bock 10/27/03
Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff

Protesting primate experimentation yesterday at Harvard University's New England Regional Primate Research Center are, from left, Sharon M. Nietsche, Steven W. Baer and Eric M. Pierce. (T&G Staff / CHRISTINE PETERSON)

Southboro – Seven people stood in soft rain on a gloomy afternoon yesterday outside Harvard University’s New England Regional Primate Research Center and peacefully protested the use of primates in experimentation.

“It’s a quality thing, not a quantity thing,” said Michael A. Budkie of Ohio, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, of the small number of protesters.

However, Don L. Gibbons, a spokesman for Harvard Medical School, said there is no inhumane treatment of animals at the primate research center. In fact, he said, the primates are treated more like patients than research subjects.

The protest was part of a series of national demonstrations for National Primate Liberation Week, organized by Stop Animal Exploitation Now – or SAEN, for short.

The animal research watch organization, with headquarters in Milford, Ohio, notes that more than a half-billion dollars annually is spent to experiment on about 100,000 primates nationally, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

Protesters said they are drawing attention this week to practices at federally funded centers, where researchers experiment on monkeys to try to find cures for human diseases. According to SAEN, most research primates are not used in experiments on diseases that kill most Americans. Projects that study primate psychology, alcohol and addictive drugs, brain mapping and sex far outnumber studies involving heart disease or cancer, they say.

The two-hour protest began at 1p.m. outside the primate research center, off Parmenter Road at the Marlboro line. Marlboro police and Harvard University police monitored the protest. There were no arrests, according to Marlboro police.

Veteran activist Steven W. Baer of Spencer coordinated the protest for SAEN. He is also a member of Massachusetts Action for Animals.

“It’s not right to harm animals,” Mr. Baer said. “I think we should be using noninvasive methods to gather the same information.” The animal rights organization recommends eliminating redundant experiments across the country; accurate reporting by laboratories; and more congressional and public oversight of primate research.

“I’m very upset. I’m here because I’m against primate experimentation,” said Sharon M. Nietsche of Worcester, one of two candidates in the District 5 Worcester City Council race. She is affiliated with the Massachusetts Green Party.

While Ms. Nietsche said she could not point to specifics about the primate research center, she said Harvard University is not treating animals humanely.

Mr. Gibbons said the university was expecting yesterday’s protest, because there generally is one every year.

“Did you see their signs?” Mr. Gibbon asked, noting that they were the same signs the protesters carried year after year. The signs grossly misrepresent the treatment of primates, he said.

“We have not had some of those species at our facility for years,” he said.

Mr. Gibbons said the research center, a 140-acre campus, is funded and operated by the National Institutes of Health. It is one of seven regional primate centers in the nation. About 2,000 primates are housed there, where several diseases, including Aids and attention deficit disorder, are researched.

Mr. Budkie of SAEN, however, said primate research is not helping to provide cures for human diseases.

“There are significant questions about the actual utility of primates as research subjects,” Mr. Budkie said. “Many scientists are suggesting that primates have not contributed to advances in diseases that are killing humans, including cancer, HIV, and heart disease.”

But Mr. Gibbons said there has been significant research at the center over the years.

“The primates are treated like patients,” Mr. Gibbons said. “If a human would have anesthesia, then the monkey would have anesthesia. If a human would have a painkiller, then a monkey would have a painkiller.”

The animals have been treated respectfully, he said, with no significant violation of rules for the treatment of primates over the years.

“Those are random inspections,” Mr. Gibbons said. The primate center is inspected, usually in unannounced visits, by the NIH, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the state Department of Public Health, he said.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Rescue league also inspect the facility according to Mr. Gibbons.

Besides Mr. Budkie, Mr. Baer and Ms. Nietsche, Eric M. Pierce of Somerville, Diane L. Moreau of Wayland, Gordon T. Davis of Worcester, and Mary M. Bennett of Spencer were at the site to protest the use of primates in medical research yesterday.

“I’m here because I’m against any type of animal experimentation,” Ms. Bennett said.

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