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PETA States Opinions on Primate Research in OregonOp-Ed by Justin Goodman/PETA
Opinion Editorial from PETA.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - On November 13th, PETA went public with the results of a four-month undercover investigation revealing that the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) consistently operated in violation of federal guidelines governing the use and care of animals.
Using evidence documented by our undercover investigator, PETA alleged that the primate center denied sick animals adequate and effective veterinary care and pain relief, handled monkeys in ways that caused them psychological and physical trauma, cleaned cages with a high pressure hose that left the animals wet and frightened and provided inadequate enrichment activities that resulted in monkeys frantically pacing back and forth inside of their tiny cages.
Video footage collected during the investigation can be viewed at stopanimaltests.com.
In response, ONPRC has made variety of sweeping claims about the “well-being” of the animals held captive at the facility and has bragged that their recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections didn’t reveal violations. Their statements are misleading and must be taken with several grains of salt.
Consider that in 2000, ONPRC hired Dr. Carol Shively of Wake Forest University, an expert in primate behavior and director at the Wake Forest Primate Research Center, to evaluate its animal care and psychological well-being programs.
Her recommendations included better training for employees in handling techniques, devoting more resources to environmental enrichment and “immediately” adopting the goal of “zero single housing” by housing monkeys together. She also recommended the “immediate” termination of all social deprivation experiments with monkeys under three years old, in which baby monkeys are isolated from their mothers; all protocols that require single housing for more than three months; electroejaculation procedures, in which male monkeys are forced to ejaculate by strapping them into restraint chairs and electrically shocking their penises; and single housing for infants.
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ONPRC’s Director, Susan Smith, trivialized Shively’s critiques in an interview with an Oregon newspaper, and continued with business as usual.
To view conditions at ONPRC today, it is as if this Shively’s report was never written. PETA’s undercover investigator recently observed monkeys running in terror from employees who grabbed them, pinned their arms behind their backs and shoved them into transfer boxes.
Monkeys who lived by themselves in tiny cages appeared to become so disturbed by the isolation that they developed persistent, neurotic pacing behaviors and even self-mutilation. Tax-payer funded studies entail single housing and social deprivation. An employee told our investigator that ONPRC still uses electoejaculation.
ONPRC’s claim that their last two USDA inspections did not identify any violations of federal law ring hollow when one understands that there have been many instances in which the USDA has failed to identify substantial illegal research activity during their facility inspections--violations that were later identified by activists and eventually resulted in citations and fines.
From a practical perspective, it is impossible to assess the care and well-being of more than 4,000 primates in the span of a USDA inspection, which lasts one or two work days. It can take several hours, and even days, to evaluate the care log of just one monkey. A USDA inspection report is just a snapshot, and a very fuzzy one at that.
There are political issues at work here too. A former USDA Animal Care Inspector for Oregon, Isis Johnson-Brown, who was responsible for inspecting ONPRC, quit her position and spoke out publicly in 2000 after realizing that she would be unable to enforce the federal animal welfare regulations because of the USDA’s “good ol’ boy relationship with the research industry.”
In fact, she asserts that she was explicitly told by her supervisors “to make a personal list of violations of the law, cut that list in half, and then cut that list in half again” before writing her official reports.
The federal regulations that she refers to provide only minimal husbandry and veterinary care standards--clean food, potable water and prompt veterinary care. Confining, isolating, poisoning and mutilating animals are all perfectly acceptable under federal animal welfare law. Even food, water and veterinary care may be withheld from animals should an experimenter find some negligible justification for doing so. Given all of this leeway, our investigation showed that ONPRC could still not meet even these nominal requirements.
But the problem here is much greater than one of noncompliance with ineffectual federal statutes. The systematic exploitation and violent abuse of sentient animals is being endorsed and bankrolled by our federal government. The primates at ONPRC suffer greatly from being exploited for research and it is morally unjustifiable to continue abusing them in these ways for any reason, let alone for the bogus, redundant experimentation that passes for science at ONPRC.
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