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Monkey lab in hot water

The largest primate facility in the US is drawing fire after an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States produced video footage of alleged animal welfare violations at the center. A Humane Society investigator spent nine months in 2007 and 2008 videotaping alleged abuses at the linkurl:New Iberia Research Center,;http://nirc.louisiana.edu/index.html which is administered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The facility houses more than 6,000 primates, including rhesus m

By | March 5, 2009

The largest primate facility in the US is drawing fire after an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States produced video footage of alleged animal welfare violations at the center. A Humane Society investigator spent nine months in 2007 and 2008 videotaping alleged abuses at the linkurl:New Iberia Research Center,;http://nirc.louisiana.edu/index.html which is administered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The facility houses more than 6,000 primates, including rhesus macaques and several hundred chimpanzees, on a sprawling 100-acre site in rural Louisiana. On its website, the Humane Society has posted linkurl:clips of the video footage;https://community.hsus.org/campaign/FED_2009_apeprotectionact?source=gabhie that show monkeys with open wounds, chimps being sedated with dart guns and falling from their perches onto the floor, and other apparent violations of the linkurl:Animal Welfare Act,;http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/legislat/awa.htm which sets forth standards of care for animals used in research, exhibitions, or as pets. Primates at the New Iberia Center are used in studies funded by the National Institutes of Health as well as for pharmaceutical company contract work. A search of the CRISP database, which lists NIH grant recipients, indicates that the university center has gotten at least 15 separate grants, most for the development of research colonies of chimps and macaques, since 2000. linkurl:Richard Bribiescas,;http://www.yale.edu/anthro/people/rbribiescas.html a Yale anthropologist who has collaborated with New Iberia researchers on primate hormone linkurl:studies,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18973242?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum told __The Scientist__ that he is surprised by the reports of abuse coming from the center. "I'm quite surprised because the people that I do communicate with down there seem to be very committed to animal welfare," he said. Bribiescas, who has never been to the facility personally but has collaborated with researchers there in the past, added that he will suspend any judgement of the facility until a thorough investigation has been completed to insure that the recent reports do not represent an "isolated incident." In 2006, University of Louisiana at Lafayette researchers published a linkurl:study;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16995645?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum in the __Journal of the American Association of Lab Animal Science__ on how outdoor housing reduced self-biting and other self-injurious behaviors in adult male macaques with histories of such problems. The Humane Society has alleged 328 potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act in a complaint issued to the US Department of Agriculture. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, told linkurl:__Science__Insider;http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/03/university-of-l.html that "A major issue for us is the psychological deprivation and torment that these animals are enduring," but the organization did not detail the specific violations outlined in the complaint. __Science__Insider also reports that the Humane Society has provided evidence that the New Iberia Center received an NIH grant of more than $6 million to provide the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with several infant chimpanzees, which would violate the NIH's own moratorium on breeding chimps for biomedical research. According to __ABC News__, which broke the linkurl:story;http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=6997869&page=1 on the reports of abuse at New Iberia, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is ordering "a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at the New Iberia Research Center."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Do Chimps Have Culture?;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53392/
[August 2007]*linkurl:NIH stops chimp breeding;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53270/
[5th June 2007]

Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

March 5, 2009

Chimpanzees and monkeys do get injured pretty regularly. They fight, bite each other's hands, sometimes biting them off completely. Pretty much every day in a major facility it is necessary to round up injured monkeys. It isn't always easy to do it either, they aren't all that interested in being rounded up to be treated. \n\nThen, when treated, monkeys and chimps don't take kindly to dressings, can bite out stitches, etcetera. \n\nDarting a chimpanzee that is 10 to 15 feet off the ground isn't a problem. Chimpanzees aren't human, they are incredibly tough creatures. A chimpanzee can fall 40 feet out of a tree, bounce, and jump right up. A 135 pound female chimpanzee was recorded with a one arm pull of approximately 1200 pounds. \n\nI would be extremely surprised it these tapes are not what they appear to be and are taken out of context. What matters in a facility is whether monkeys and apes are treated in a reasonable amount of time for the injuries they give to each other. Generally, they have pretty high pain thresholds. A chimp, for instance, will run around if it has a broken rib. \n\nThis Travis pet chimp incident is a good example of this actually. The chimp was stabbed several times by its owner, and all that did was kind of slow him down a bit. He was shot several times and that made him get up, go into his cage to die. These are incredibly robust, extremely powerful animals. They are not human, and should not be treated as if they were.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

March 5, 2009

Many observations, if put into perspective, would not make the headlines. Without eye- and mind-grabbing headlines, a news entity/organization does not have a product. At this time let the facts rule and after an appropriate investigation, let the conclusions rule.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

March 5, 2009

The question here is NOT whether the chimps are "not human and should not be treated as if they are" or whether you can dart them and its safe for them to fall 15 ft to the ground.\n\nThe point is that there is very little justification for using higher level primates such as chimps in experimental research, and for keeping them in such a poor environment.\n\nI do animal research on rodents, and believe the work is justified.\n\nThe case for using using higher level primates is very poor, and should not be supported by taxpayer dollars unless heavily justified and supported by sufficient funding that the chimps are kept in environments that are group housed and closer to their natural habitat.\n\nThose who work in facilities like this quickly become inured to any form of suffering, as is evident from the above post. It is a terrible position to place a person in as well, since they must shut down any form of compassion for these animals that they are supposedly caring for.
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

March 5, 2009

I've reviewed the materials more carefully. I think that the biggest issue is enrichment of the environment. Psychological care for the animals is not good from what it looks like to me. Aside from that, the care looks ok to me. The keepers should have safer procedures for handling chimps also. But the crashing to the floor thing? That's no big deal. Nor is whacking a young chimp on the head for biting. A chimp's skull is pretty thick people. I do that with dogs and cats that snap at me too. I'm not trying to do them in, I just need to assert dominance. \n\nI don't like primate research much either, and I know that keepers get very attached to some animals. They cry when a favorite is terminated for a study for necropsy. Sometimes they quit. I can totally understand that. \n\nIt's difficult. Yes, some P.I.s keep themselves in business by killing monkeys and their studies aren't important. I know they exist. But not most of them do that. \n\nThe fact is there are diseases and conditions that can't be studied in rodents. So primate models are it for those diseases and conditions. Even with primate testing, sometimes people die from therapies that worked in primates. Without them, lots more would. \n\nWe can decide that human lives aren't worth that, but try telling that to a mother of a sick child, or the spouse or partner of someone dying of AIDS.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

March 5, 2009

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is NOT concerned with the humane use and treatment of animals as pets or as research subjects. HSUS is an ANIMAL RIGHTS organization (with a touchy-feely name) that is dedicated to the elimination of animals and animal products from daily human activities. This animal rights/activist group (HSUS) has posted on their self-serving website a 7min videoclip containing footage purportedly obtained by their member who infiltrated New Iberia facility last year. Note also that this was not an ?investigation? by a trained animal welfare officer. This HSUS individual was a covert operative carrying a hidden camera beneath protective headgear. The sole purpose for the videotaping appears to be to provide footage that could be edited and used in any context that HSUS then chose. \n\nhttp://video.hsus.org/index.jsp?fr_story=478975d8a33d5737fb8cb89030361b7fda24a9d9\n \nTo the layman, certain activities that are shown in the video could be misinterpreted as "cruel or inhumane" as implied by the narrator's provocative voice-over. For example, we see a conscious young macaque (poignantly described as a "baby") being used in an "experiment" while it is "awake and alert." The "experiment" actually appears to be the routine collection of a small blood sample. There is no need to anesthetize the monkey in this situation anymore than your 5 year-old child would be anesthetized to provide a blood sample in a doctor's office. \n\nThe research is given a blanket description of "scientifically questionable" by the narrator, but the nature of that research is never even mentioned. We see an animal handler removing ("yanking") a monkey from its cage using the industry-standard pole-and-collar technique. Another macaque has been "forced" into a restraint chair when, in fact, it appears to be sitting there quite peacefully. \n\nMy company (like many others) has used the valuable resources of New Iberia for selected studies that are not feasibly conducted in any other species. Site inspections of New Iberia by our own employees (veterinarians and researchers) have found nothing but the highest standards of medical care and concern for the animals? well-being. Indeed, we have witnessed chimpanzees VOLUNTARILY extend a arm from between the bars of their cages to have a blood sample drawn from an arm vein. No anesthetics, no darting and no squeeze cages are employed...the animals do this willingly. If the chimps were fearful of humans due to mistreatment or abuse by their caretakers, such behavior on the part of the chimps would never occur. \n\nMuch of the remainder of the video discusses Federal funding of the center and "retirement sanctuaries" for great apes. None of these latter issues is related to potential Animal Welfare Act violations. \n\nI would be very surprised if even a fraction of HSUS? 108 pages of purported AWA ?violations? has any basis in fact or reality. But you can be assured that the HSUS execs are likely kicking back right now with a fat stogie, clicking their glasses of champagne, and slapping each other high-fives for the turmoil this press release has generated. The USDA will spend countless hours investigating these allegations; companies that run contract studies at New Iberia will send their own investigators down to visit to confirm that the facility hasn?t inexplicably spiraled downhill in the last eight months since this HSUS person infiltrated New Iberia. All this has to be done, of course, because people have to cover their backsides. In the meantime, HSUS has accomplished its agenda by creating a state of commotion and unrest in the research community and the public press. \n\n\nPlease approach this HSUS animal rights propaganda campaign with a critical eye.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 35

March 5, 2009

We cannot expect researchers and animal rights activists to agree on much, but there is one common cause we should seek: we shouldn't need to have intermediate studies done on primates as a ritual safety precaution when there is no strong scientific reason for it.\n\nFor example, consider the infamous case of TeGenero TGN1412. A company makes an antibody against a human protein to activate every T cell in the body. They test it in rats and, incredibly, it does NOT make them swell up and reject their own tissues, but actually seems to be a useful treatment. They test it in monkeys (crab-eating macaques, whose protein sequence happened to be just slightly different), and work out a safe dosage. Then some idiot divides that by 500 (which is a small difference for an antibody) and starts injecting volunteers... and the results were horrendous. As I recall the term "Elephant Man" was used, fingers were lost, and immune systems were permanently damaged.\n\nWhile stopping at Monkey City on the way from the lab to the clinic may give people a sense of security, that case makes me doubt how justified it really is. Does it weed out problems or just give people a false sense of security? What we do know is that an extra layer of primate trials will always drag out the time between invention and treatment, leaving patients waiting, venture capital accumulating interest, and scientists impatient.\n\nSo while we love to be adversaries, we all might be on the same side about something.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

March 6, 2009

Thanks very much to the poster (The water's not all that hot) who did the job that this supposed "reporter" should have done, by informing us just who this HSUS really is. Are you guys there at The Scientist under such extreme pressure that you cannot take the minimum of time required to properly check out the source of the comments you are reporting. Of course the The Humane Society of the United States chose that name to confuse us all, but the JOB of a reporter is to clarify those things and not leave that duty up to posters to clarify. Shame on you, The Scientist, we expect better!
Avatar of: Donald Duck

Donald Duck

Posts: 39

March 6, 2009

The point of this article has nothing to do with animal rights, but whether or not animal rights are being violated. The implication of the article is that the footage will cause a lot of trouble even though it is probably false.\n\nI recently watched "I am an Animal", a PeTA documentary about Ingrid Newkirk, the founder. It looked very, very suspicious. I don't trust ingrid and I don't trust that footage, especially when one keeps in mind that Ingrid has announced a PeTA wide ban on pitbulls. Google "PeTA pitbulls" and click on the link to www.PeTA.org - their official website - to find out why Ingrid has passed judgement on pitbulls. She is planning on neutering the dogs already in homes and euthanizing the dogs in their shelters.\n\nI don't trust animal rights activists on principle. I don't trust articles not cited properly and I trust uncited movie footage even less. I've been lied to too many times to take any animal rights activist seriously. I am biased by necesity, so if I ignore real animal rights groups blame PeTA, not me.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

March 6, 2009

Vivisection is a primitive, medieval, and scientifically impoverished method of testing. Even scientists who participate in biomedical research should realize that by now. \n\nYou scientists are highly educated people who should know better. When are you going to muster the courage to come out of your denial and do nonhumans AND humans a favor by developing and using state-of-the-art non-animal modalities (many of which already exist) to test drugs and find cures for diseases? \n\nAnimal testing is bad science and bad ethics; bad, unethical science cheats the public as well as tormenting the innocent animals who are incarcerated in labs for life for no good reason except to enrich a few CEOs and keep research dollars pouring in. \n\n
Avatar of: Donald Duck

Donald Duck

Posts: 39

March 6, 2009

Anyone who knows anything at all about biological systems is that they behave AS A SYSTEM. You cannot just 'remove' part of that system and expect it to behave exactly the same. Sure, vivisection is primitive, but the alternative is Star Trek level technology. \n\nI admit that animal testing is primitive, and that results don't always carry over to humans, but I bet you that you'd have a hard time getting as many human volunteers as animal 'volunteers.' Additionally, controlling variables like diet and lifestyle is a ton harder when you work with humans.\n\nFinally, get over it you biased fools. In mother nature daddies eat kiddies, deer and chickens leg's crack under their own weight unless they get killed young, and whales get slowly ripped apart, piece by piece, until they lose the strength to resist the killer whale who are trying to eat them. Face it, scientist are nicer than nature. Nature doesn't get attacked by animal rights orginization when it breaks the rules.
Avatar of: Paul Browne

Paul Browne

Posts: 38

March 9, 2009

I agree with Ellen Hunt that it is important to have some perspective on this, the way the chimps are darted in particular is hardly different from what I've seen conservationists do many times. What worries me more is the fact that some cages seemed poorly maintained and the way the chimps were transported without restraints very unsafe, though if they had been restrained would we have seen HSUS complaints about "handcuffed chimps"?\n\nI don't like the idea of using chimps in medical research, and it's true that the numbers used has dropped dramatically in recent years, to the extent that there is real debate as to whether their usefulness justifies the very high cost involved in keeping them. \n\nThe only non--behavioral research on chimps that seems justafiable to me is research on the development of hepatitis C vaccine, since there are no in vitro, transgenic rodent, or even monkey models* available that allow vaccine candidates to be assessed for efficacy prior to large scale human trials (smaller scale human trials can evaluate safety and immune system stimulation but not protection). So until other ways of evaluating hep C vaccine candidates are invented (and work on this is ongoing) some chimps will still need to be used.\n\n* These and clinical studies can be used to study many other aspects of the disease.

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