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Group Cries Foul After Being Shut Out of Discussions About Proposed NASA Experiments on Monkeys
For Immediate Release: February 4, 2010
Contact:Justin Goodman 757-622-7382
Uptn, N.Y. -- Today, PETA fired off a letter to Paul Vaska, chair of Brookhaven National Laboratory's (BNL) Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), to protest BNL's refusal to allow PETA to attend today's committee meeting. PETA is currently campaigning against NASA's plans to fund a $1.75 million radiation experiment on squirrel monkeys--an experiment that would take place in part at BNL and will likely be discussed at the meeting.
PETA believes that the proposed NASA study violates the agency's own animal protection regulations as well as the federal Animal Welfare Act, and the group sought to attend the IACUC meeting to discuss its concerns. Up to 30 monkeys in the NASA study will be exposed to a large dose of radiation at BNL and will then be sent to Harvard's McLean Hospital, where they will be locked in barren cages and subjected to years of behavioral experiments in order to assess the damage, which may include brain tumors, blindness, cognitive decline, and other debilitating conditions.
"The decision to shut PETA out of these meetings makes us wonder what Brookhaven and NASA are trying to hide," said PETA Vice President of Laboratory Investigations Kathy Guillermo. "BNL is a federal facility and is funded by taxpayers, as are these monkey experiments. The public has a right to know how our money is spent and whether government agencies are violating the law and abusing animals."
For more information, please visit PETA.org.
PETA's letter to Paul Vaska, chair of Brookhaven National Laboratory's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, follows.
February 4, 2010
Paul Vaska, Ph.D., ChairInstitutional Animal Care and Use CommitteeBrookhaven National Laboratory
Dear Dr. Vaska:
I was disappointed and concerned to receive an e-mail from Brookhaven National Laboratory's (BNL) Michael M. Goldman denying PETA's request to attend today's meeting of the BNL Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at which we believe a NASA-funded radiation experiment on monkeys being conducted in part at BNL will be discussed.
The issues surrounding this experiment are of the utmost concern to the public. Based on documents recently released by BNL, we strongly believe that the BNL IACUC may not have properly reviewed the technical and ethical merits of this project and that this experiment violates both the federal Animal Welfare Act and NASA's own principles governing the use of animals. The protocol completely ignores a long and unproductive four-decade history of using primates for space radiation studies (there is not one single study of this kind cited in the protocol). It does not attempt to explain how exposing monkeys to one large dose of radiation over a period of a few minutes is in any way comparable to the low-level long-term exposure that human astronauts may encounter in space. Nor does it adequately describe the experiments or address the physical and psychological suffering that the project will cause to the monkeys involved.
Upon entering office, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum in which he wrote, "All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government." The recent denial of PETA's request to attend the BNL IACUC meeting flies in the face of this obligation and calls the integrity of the review process into question. The only possible reason we can imagine for being turned away from this meeting--which federal law does not prohibit us from attending--is that you and your colleagues wish to operate under a cloak of secrecy and without scrutiny from the very citizens whose tax dollars fund BNL and the proposed NASA experiment.
It is difficult to have confidence in a process in which those involved insist on operating out of view of the public and apparently expect that their ability and willingness to make sound decisions be accepted on faith alone and only be subject to public consideration months after the decisions are made, when documents may be released through the Freedom of Information Act and it's already too late to help the animals involved.
While we are now obviously unable to attend today's meeting and discuss our concerns, we nevertheless hope that you and your colleagues will do the right thing and cancel this experiment once and for all. Thank you.
Justin GoodmanResearch Associate SupervisorLaboratory Investigations Department
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.