Unfortunately, once again, the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University has once again been caught by an undercover worker in numerous instances of animal abuse.
PETA infiltrates primate center
Animal research -
The activist group will formalize its accusations against the Hillsboro facility today
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
For the second time in a decade, an animal-rights activist has slipped past employment screeners at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, taken a job as a monkey handler and accused the facility of routinely abusing animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal-rights group, planted one of its undercover investigators at the Hillsboro center from April 9 to July 25, officials at the nonprofit told The Oregonian.
The investigator, whom neither PETA nor the primate center would identify, took a job as an animal husbandry technician and secretly took notes and shot video to document her complaints. PETA will formalize her accusations today in a complaint to federal regulators.
"We are an open facility," declared Michael Conn, the associate director and acting head of the primate center's Department of Animal Resources, in a response Monday. Regulators have inspected the primate center three times since February, finding the facility in full compliance with federal law, he said. "There are no secrets here."
PETA's complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture accuses the primate center, a wing of Oregon Health & Science University, of violating eight provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law intended to guarantee humane treatment of research animals. Among PETA's allegations:
Primate center officials failed to provide timely or effective veterinary treatment for monkeys suffering chronic vomiting, diarrhea and kidney stones.
The center failed to ensure that employees were qualified to perform medical procedures, allowing a worker with palsied hands to give hypodermic injections that caused blood to spurt from a monkey's arm.
Workers failed to prevent monkeys from suffering trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort, sometimes putting sedated animals into group enclosures that exposed them to falls or attacks from other monkeys.
"The actions of (primate center) staff show a flagrant disregard for the law and for the animals for whom they are responsible," the complaint alleges.
Similar complaints from another animal rights infiltrator in 2000 were investigated by the USDA, and the center was found not to violate the law. Conn said he would be "absolutely shocked" if the new allegations were substantiated.
Oregon's primate center, with annual research grants of $33.3 million, performs experiments on many of the 4,200 monkeys in its care, putting the facility in the cross hairs of groups such as PETA.
The key purpose of the Norfolk, Va., nonprofit is to protect animals from being used for food, clothing, entertainment or medical research.
In 1998, Matt Rossell, a former PETA investigator, went to work as an animal welfare technician at the center. He spent more than two years taking notes and photographs, secretly videotaping screeching monkeys, including one that had chewed a large gash in its own arm.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, in Maryland, formalized Rossell's observations in a Sept. 6, 2000, complaint to the USDA. It accused the facility of caging animals in filth and abusively small enclosures; conducting needless surgeries; and letting unskilled workers give monkeys injections.
Rossell also complained that the center's method of extracting sperm from monkeys -- a process called electroejaculation -- caused them pain.
The USDA sent six officials to investigate Rossell's complaints. Four months later, they cleared the primate center of violating the Animal Welfare Act, although inspectors did recommend the center improve conditions for 1,201 monkeys then kept indoors.
The center has spent much of the past seven years developing one of the nation's best "psychological well-being" programs for monkeys, said Kristine Coleman, who heads the center's behavioral sciences unit. Today, Coleman said, monkeys get more fruits and vegetables, which stimulate their natural foraging instincts.
The primate center also improved its method of extracting sperm, a process, taped by Rossell, which had burned the penises of two monkeys. Pain and injury have been halted by giving the animals a light sedative and an analgesic, said Dr. Gwen Maginnis, the center's chief attending veterinarian.
Primate center officials were caught off guard seven years ago, after learning they had hired Rossell, who champions a belief that animals are sentient beings entitled to legal rights against exploitation.
The center, which hires about 50 employees a year, improved job screening by adding a full criminal background check and asking applicants and their references whether they think animals should be used in medical research.
"If they come here with a clean criminal history and they lie about their interest and the reason they're here," Conn said, "there's not a lot you can do."
PETA's director of research, Kathy Guillermo, defended the group's use of undercover investigators at biomedical facilities.
"If the laboratories would open their doors and let us in, we would certainly rather do it that way," she said. "Unfortunately what we find over and over and over again is that the doors are shut tight."