Is It a UMass Lab or the Death Star? Chewie’s Story, From the Dark Side of Campus

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3 min read

When the tiny marmoset who would become known as “Chewie” was just 3 years old, he was shoved into a crate and shipped nearly 8,000 miles from a monkey farm in South Africa to another hellhole far, far away in Miami.

And things only got worse.

Chewie—named by experimenters after Chewbacca, the furry intergalactic pilot in the movie franchise Star Wars—was trucked to the laboratory of Agnès Lacreuse, an experimenter at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst (UMass).

Unlike his namesake, who darted around galaxies in the Millennium Falcon, Chewie was imprisoned in a cage for most of his life. Chewbacca and his buddies triumphed over oppressive forces, but Chewie’s compatriots were killed off, one by one.

Life Under the Lacreuse Empire

Abuse by scalpel was only part of the horror that Chewie endured. PETA obtained documents that reveal his dismal around-the-clock reality of being denied basic care and often suffering alone through an array of ailments.

Shortly after Chewie arrived at UMass, he was cut open for a vasectomy that left him squirming in irritation as the gash healed. On one occasion, he sustained bruising and endured irritation because the identification chain he was forced to wear around his neck became lodged inside his mouth.

Photo of Chewie showing the metal tag around his neck

The tip of his tail was ripped off when staff were trying to recapture him after he escaped from an improperly secured harness. And after a battery of tests, experimenters left him to vomit as he experienced disorientation while waking up from sedation.

In some tests, experimenters deliberately provoked stress in this social marmoset by separating him from his cagemate, watching as isolation took its oppressive toll and he became overcome by distress.

GIF cut from footage where Chewie struggles to grab food in a plastic container

Later, experimenters put Chewie in a crippling jacket-helmet combination. Then they zip-tied him to a device meant to immobilize his head for hours and took photos of his brain.

Experimenters forced Chewie to participate in a battery of curiosity-driven cognitive tests by withholding water from the tiny monkey for hours and then awarding him with mere sips of it if they were satisfied with his performance.

All this was in addition to frequent blood draws and urine samples, which are part of daily life for animals confined to a laboratory.

A Disturbance in ‘the Force’

Once experimenters had killed his cagemate, Rey, Chewie lived out his remaining days with a marmoset named Yoda.

Lacreuse’s experimenters decided that Chewie had outlived his usefulness to them in 2020. He was killed on October 13 of that year. He was 8 years old.

New Hope

In their natural habitat, sociable marmosets huddle together by the dozens in trees, forage for food, and frolic with their troopmates. That life was stolen from Chewieall for pointless experiments that will never contribute anything valuable to science.

It doesn’t have to be this way for other monkeys. Please take action by urging UMass officials to end Lacreuse’s cruel marmoset experiments:

Take Action for Marmosets
Marmoset in a tree

And if you’re a U.S. resident, please take an additional action for animals in UMass’ laboratories and other U.S. labs by supporting PETA’s Research Modernization Deal, which outlines a comprehensive strategy for replacing all experiments on animals with more effective, human-relevant, non-animal methods:

Support Animal-Free Science
Women scientists in a laboratory
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