Allegations of Mistreated Lab Chimps Spark a Federal Investigation

By Eliza Strickland | March 5, 2009 7:37 pm

chimp cageThe nation’s largest primate research center has been accused of mistreating its monkeys and apes by the Human Society, which sent an undercover investigator to work at the research center for nine months. The New Iberia Research Laboratory 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 clips of the video footage that show monkeys with open wounds, chimps being sedated with dart guns and falling from their perches onto the floor [The Scientist].

The Humane Society filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, listing 328 possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In response, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ordered an investigation of the facility. “In light of the video evidence presented today, I am ordering a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at New Iberia Research Center,” Vilsack said. “If the allegations prove to be true, the American public can expect the perpetrators to be held fully accountable. I take the protection of animals very seriously, and will do my utmost to fully enforce the Animal Welfare Act” [The Times-Picayune].

Humane Society officials would not release the complaint but says it questions the quality of veterinary care and housing conditions, as well as the psychological well-being of the chimpanzees and monkeys. “A major issue for us is the psychological deprivation and torment that these animals are enduring,” said Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society’s president [Science Insider]. In the case of cognitively and emotionally sophisticated chimpanzees, Humane Society scientists say that mistreatment can leave a lasting mark. Says Dr. Martin Stephens: “The spinning around in the cages, the biting of open wounds, self-mutilation, those are indicators of frustration, neurosis and even psychosis” [ABC News]. 

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which runs the lab, has argued that the Humane Society’s videos presented a distorted picture, and maintains that the research center is in compliance with all federal standards and guidelines on animal care. A statement also stressed the importance of primate research. “Thanks to research involving primates, countless lives have been saved. For example, primates were critical to the development of vaccines for hepatitis A and B, now common pediatric immunizations. In addition, the chimpanzee is integral to current efforts to develop vaccines for hepatitis C, which globally affects more than 170 million people” [ABC News], it read in part.

Related Content:
80beats: EU Proposal Would Spare Great Apes From Medical Research
80beats: Great Apes Have the Right to Life and Liberty, Spain Says
DISCOVER: On the Rights of an Ape
DISCOVER: Discover Dialogue: Primatologist Jane Goodal

Image: flickr / hayefan

  • Chubbee

    These places are nothing more than concentration camps for animals.
    The easy way is testing on these creatures, after all they can’t speak up for themselves.
    Take away the option to experiment on animals and I’m sure, with our technology we would find viable alternatives.

  • FrootBat

    Yeah, we’d probably use pigs. No matter how we go about doing something someone is always going to step in our way and say, ‘hey I don’t like this’. I agree that the testing subjects should be treated better but I don’t think they should stop crucial research just because a few nut job activists got in the way.

  • dart guns save lives

    I’m not sure how the “importance of research” justifies using dart guns… Last time I checked, dart guns aren’t going to cure things faster…

    sounds like you never saw the footage on Nightline. If so, why on Earth do you feel entitled to comment? Spare me your expertise.

  • Judy Jansen

    Why is it that the most “intelligent” race supposedly….has to have no compassion and are so ignorant. I feel that there are alot of Human Beings that are wasting our time and monies by working the system and only being negative within our society (criminals)….and if we utilize these people the same way that we have done to the animals……then we would get a complete “direct” result as it would be done on a human being….and then these individuals that have given society absolutely nothing back in a positive direction….have the chance to finally do so…..

    We say that we have no place to put these people and so we let them run the streets being abusive and destructive and not enough space and time in our jails…….why not allow them to get tested….as you well know many experiements (when the human being) is given a little monies….will step forward and take that chance……well this is their time….to give back….at least they have a voice.

    Abusing animals and torchering them… so very cruel… least the human beings can add back and communicate to what is happening….don’t you think.]]Compassion is definitely needed….here….and so much is going on when people need to be more realistic…

    I agree that there are viable alternatives….quit torchering animals….just because they can’t communicate in “english”.


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