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Nov-12-2007 19:29printcomments

OHSU Responds to PETA's Allegations Over Primate Research

PETA lists many criticisms of OHSU's Primate Research Center, but the University says it has "an outstanding record of animal care."

OHSU has worked on a project to clone primate cells.  Now the barrier is down through a new technique using rhesus monkey cells.
OHSU has worked on a project to clone primate cells. Now the barrier is down through a new technique using rhesus monkey cells. Courtesy: grg.org

(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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Kristy Sokol July 11, 2010 11:34 pm (Pacific time)

I saw footage of OHSU's experiments on channel 11 of comcast cable. What I saw shocked and horrified me. I've never seen anything like this on TV. Putting electricity into a monkeys penis to see if it would ejaculate. I'm disgusted and crying and angry and upset at any human being who can manipulate the innocents of help less creatures. Who ever has that footage needs to send it to Oprah and Tyra banks so that this inhumanity can be seen and remembered.

stopnow October 26, 2008 7:13 pm (Pacific time)

this needs to stop, how come people can work in that place knowing they support animal cruelty? would you work for someon who rape children? well, you are helping them succeed with your labor. Boycott them, don't help them

sten January 31, 2008 5:54 pm (Pacific time)

i think animal testing should be banned by all counties and states

Matt Rossell November 14, 2007 11:06 pm (Pacific time)

I also worked there as mentioned in this article and was sad to see the new PETA video and recognize at least a few of the monkeys I got to know in the years I worked there, still alone in a cage, now seven years later. These monkeys can live for 25 or 30 years, alone in a tiny 4 foot square stainless steel existance. It's no wonder they go crazy. And I saw it all, monkeys pulling out their hair, eating their feces, drinking their urine, abusing their infants, circling pacing and in the worst cases, biting and attacking their own bodies. When it comes to news stories like this, the devil is in the details that unfortunately get left out. No, the USDA did not cite OHSU's Primate Center after I gave them over two hours of video evidence and 50 pages of careful documentation. But what the story does not tell is that Oregon's USDA inspector at the time, Dr. Isis Johnson Brown, had quit in disgust because her supervisors at the USDA did not support her efforts to enforce the already weak laws of the Animal Welfare Act. She was by my side, backing me up at that Aug 2000 press conference. And despite the fact that the USDA did not choose to cite OHSU on clear violations of law depicted in the video, they did sharply criticize the lab for a lack of social housing for monkeys, their cruel electroejaculation procedure where monkeys penises are shocked to get semen samples, causing severe pain and sometimes burning their penises, for the cruel "round-up" procedure of bringing in monkeys from the outdoor enclosures and for the lack of feeding produce and false documentation of produce feeding. The sad truth is that these labs are getting more savvy with their public relations and they are getting more and more monkeys. This day and age, as animal experiments become less and less relivant and as we learn more about these complex social primates that have emotional lives very similar to our own, we should be reducing the numbers of monkeys. OHSU has more than 40% more monkeys than they did 7 years ago, and as Dr. Jane Goodall put it regarding these very monkeys, this is a "very black mark against humanity."

Monkey November 14, 2007 7:11 pm (Pacific time)

Stop taking all of your medications, wearing all of your makeup, praying for a cure for cancer, aids, or any other horrible whatnot. Put yourself up for testing in the place of the animals. Computer simulations and mathematical calculations can only advance a field so far. People want the gold, but don't want to know from where it was mined or in what way.

Dr. Alka Chandna November 14, 2007 11:12 am (Pacific time)

It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that ONPRC has chosen to hide behind its AAALAC accreditation and clean USDA inspections to defend the hideous treatment of monkeys documented by PETA (people who would like to make up their own minds on the issue can watch the video at www.peta.org).

The laboratories at Columbia University and Covance (a contract testing company) were also AAALAC-accredited when PETA's undercover investigations revealed gross abuse and neglect of animals. In the wake of these investigations, the USDA cited and fined both laboratories, but AAALAC continued to accredit these shoddy operations.

On the issue of USDA inspections, it's critical to understand that all inspectors are not created equal. But don't take my word for it; a 2005 audit report published by the USDA Office of the Inspector General slammed the USDA for failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act in our nation's laboratories. The report, which you can read here: www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-03-SF.pdf notes that “[m]ost [veterinary medical officers] believe there are still problems with the search for alternative research, veterinary care, review of painful procedures, and the researchers’ use of animals” and “[s]ome IACUCs (institutional oversight committees) did not ensure that unnecessary or repetitive experiments would not be performed on laboratory animals.” The OIG report further reports that at almost one-third of facilities, IACUCs failed to ensure that principal investigators (PIs) considered alternatives to painful procedures and documented availability of the alternatives.

The failure on the part of animal experimentation facilities to abide by the Animal Welfare Act constitutes a failure to extend to the animals who are used in invasive, painful, and ultimately lethal experiments in laboratories the *minimum* protections afforded by law. It's a shameful reflection on laboratories that they have violated public trust to such a level, and a shameful reflection on ONPRC that it is happy to hide behind public relations soundbites to defend its despicable practices.

SeanC November 14, 2007 9:20 am (Pacific time)

I am surprised that this lab is doing exactly what every other laboratory does in response to a PETA or similar investigation: hide behind some misleading accreditation. AAALAC has given their stamp of approval to numerous labs that were subsequently investigated and fined "out the wazoo" by the USDA. Even the University of Washington -- which was recently ordered to REPAY fund money for reasons related to their egregious cruelty to animals -- has had AAALAC accreditation.

linda November 13, 2007 9:20 pm (Pacific time)

As an employee of OHSU I believe that certain forms of animal testing are necessary. However, these benchmark standards OHSU claims to live up to are %$$%#&^. Housing animals in sterile cages without bedding barely large enough for them to turn around is cruel. The video speaks for itself. Animals are wasted and ethical standards are breached every single day. I am a witness.

Editor: You know, one of the only things we ask of you is to not use profanity. These comments are approved by living people, so give us a break on this OK? Also, on behalf of OHSU, we have no idea if this person who claims to work there and uses profanity when leaving comments is anything but a shill, so trust your instincts and don't believe everything you read.

animalfriend November 13, 2007 3:35 pm (Pacific time)

Thank goodness there are courageous people who will brave the beauracracy and law to tell us the awful truth, what our tax dollars are going to and the sad cruelty taking place daily.

Renewoods November 13, 2007 1:50 pm (Pacific time)

These so called scientists are acomplishing nothing other than proving the capacity of certain people to make sentient beings suffer! All they care about is spending public money and trying and make a name for themselves!

Niranjan November 13, 2007 7:05 am (Pacific time)

Animal testing is scientific fraud!

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