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OHSU Responds to PETA's Allegations Over Primate ResearchTim King Salem-News.com
PETA lists many criticisms of OHSU's Primate Research Center, but the University says it has "an outstanding record of animal care."
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - The animal rights group PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has Portland's Oregon Health Sciences University Primate Research Center listed in position #8 on PETA’s ‘10 Worst Laboratories’ List, and they are gearing up to bring more attention to OHSU's continued use of laboratory monkeys.
PETA says, "In contrast to Portland’s otherwise progressive image, Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) extensive animal testing is a shameful relic. OHSU’s Regional Primate Center houses almost 4,000 primates and used more than 900 of them in painful experiments, including tobacco and nicotine research and pregnancy studies."
OHSU says that it is their understanding that PETA will make claims about the Oregon National Primate Research Center during a press conference set for Tuesday. The press conference is expected to include a former OHSU employee.
"This is the second time in the past seven years that OHSU's primate center has been targeted from by an animal activist group using this tactic. In the previous case, the employee who made claims of abuse was a longtime PETA employee who was charged with taking jobs in research labs with the goal of damaging the reputation of institutions that conduct animal studies." PETA is expected to make claims about the care of animals at the Oregon National Primate Research Center during a press conference, though it isn't clear exactly what PETA has lined up.
"OHSU will respond to all of the specific allegations when they become available, but it is important to know that the claims come on the heels of an outstanding evaluation report by the primate center's accrediting body, AAALAC" (the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International).
The OHSU statement continued, "Just one week ago today, AALAC announced full accreditation for the primate center, which followed an earlier commendation for well-maintained facilities and records, dedicated staff, and effective university animal care oversight. Accreditation involves an exhaustive inspection of animal care spaces and labs over a period of several days. With this latest announcement, the primate center has been accredited continuously by AAALAC for the past 32 years."
But PETA lists one criticism after another about OHSU's treatment of primates. "In one troubling example, Eliot Spindel performed research on pregnant monkeys and other animals to see how nicotine exposure affects fetuses. In order to examine how vitamin C interacts with nicotine, Spindel injected the pregnant monkeys with nicotine and gave one group high doses of vitamin C. He then removed their fetuses by Cesarean-section surgery, performed invasive lung-function tests on the babies, and then killed the infants to conduct necropsies." PETA says his conclusions suggested that women can continue smoking during pregnancy if they take a vitamin—a dangerous distortion of the truth.
Another example PETA cites are what they describe as, "cruel OHSU pregnancy experiments." They claim that Miles Novy studies infection and preterm labor in pregnant rhesus monkeys by implanting chronic-dwelling catheters in the mother and the fetus as well as electrodes for recording vital signs and uterine contractions.
"He then uses the catheters to inject various kinds of bacteria into the mother’s reproductive organs, which causes infections. To protect the elaborate equipment that protrudes from their bodies, the monkeys are kept tethered in vests for months. Anyone who has endured a bladder infection knows that internal infections are excruciatingly painful, and it’s difficult to imagine the suffering endured by these monkeys."
OHSU says the allegations also come on the heels of an international media campaign by PETA earlier this year. In the winter of 2007, PETA made claims about research being conducted in sheep. (Help Stop Cruel and Pointless 'Gay Sheep' Experiments) "As a result of work by OHSU researchers, these claims were later revealed to be false by reporters at the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian (UK) and ABC News," OHSU stated. (NY Times article: Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science and Bad Publicity) (Time Magazine article: Yep, They're Gay) (Guardian UK story: 'Gay sheep man' fights back) (ABC News story: Are Some Sheep Gay?)
"The new claims about the primate center are expected to follow a similar pattern to the animal activist campaign of 2000, when Matt Rossell, a current employee of the animal activist group In Defense of Animals-Portland and a longtime PETA investigator, made claims of abuse at the primate center after working there. A two month investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture cleared the primate center of any wrongdoing and no fines or penalties were issued."
But another charge against OHSU by PETA, is that they have a significant number of early-life stress experiments on primates. "In these studies, infant monkeys are taken from their mothers to induce trauma, and researchers study the neurotic and disturbed behavior that ensues. For the most part, these studies have only confirmed what we already know from human observation: Neglect and abuse in early childhood often lead to developmental and behavioral problems."
In addition to conducting experiments on primates, PETA maintains that OHSU uses nearly 2,000 other nonrodent animals, including pigs and sheep. "OHSU’s steady stream of useless and cruel research has earned it a spot on our list."
But researchers at the primate center say they do care about the treatment of animals there. "OHSU's primate center has an outstanding record of animal care," explained Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., vice-president of research. "Twice a year the federal government conducts unannounced inspections. These inspections repeatedly demonstrate the hard work and dedication of our animal care staff. Our employees truly care about these animals and the records show this year after year."
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