Members of Congress Demand Answers From NIH About Funding Appalling Lab

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3 min read

Now that all 108 monkeys and 180 mice have been rescued from the miserable makeshift lab known as the Caucaseco Scientific Research Center, we’re waiting for answers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has bankrolled the glorified torture chamber. Colombian authorities across multiple agencies have been hard at work since PETA submitted our initial complaint—halting the experiments and carrying out animal rescues—but we’re hearing only silence from NIH on the matter.

two workers passing each other outside the caucaseco laboratory. their vests read "Inspector de Policia: Subsecretaria de acceso a Servicios de Justicia"
Why is NIH silent, despite months of action from Colombian authorities?

However, thanks to U.S. representatives Troy Nehls (R-Texas) and Don Davis (D-N.C.), some answers may be forthcoming. They sent a letter to Lawrence A. Tabak, the agency’s acting director, asking whether NIH and its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) plan to cancel Caucaseco’s current funding, which was intended for its cruel and pointless malaria experiments on monkeys. As the letter points out, “This is particularly troubling because the chief of the NIAID’s Malaria Immunology Section has collaborative agreements with [a Caucaseco owner].”

NIAID is currently paying Caucaseco to run two separate sets of experiments at the associated Primate Center Foundation, where—according to the Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Cauca, a regional environmental agency—the facility has lacked the required permits to experiment on these animals since 2012.

No Due Diligence at NIH

You might think the agency trading millions in taxpayer dollars for deadly experiments would keep a close eye on the companies it’s paying—especially when the two owners of the laboratory racket are married. Apparently, though, that’s not the case with NIH, which has given Caucaseco’s owners, Sócrates Herrera Valencia (Herrera) and Myriam Arévalo Ramírez (Arévalo), over $17 million since 2003.

NIH Has Blood on Its Hands

What happened at Caucaseco is not unique. NIH doled out more than $287 million to foreign organizations in 2022, and it requires that these facilities commit to following the same guidelines of animal care as laboratories in the U.S. must—but in reality, no one makes sure that happens. There are no inspections and—unlike in this country—no requirement that animal welfare violations be self-reported to NIH. This funding model is a setup for failure, sham science, and mass animal suffering and death, yet NIH allows it to continue. A recently published report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office confirmed this lack of oversight and found that between fiscal years 2011 and 2021, NIH gave $2.2 billion to 200 foreign organizations to experiment on animals.

Demand That NIH Pull the Funds

While the difficult work of rehabilitating traumatized animals and building a case goes on in Colombia, NIH’s leadership confronts an extremely simple, straightforward decision. We’re grateful to representatives Nehls and Davis for focusing on this case, and now PETA needs your voice, too.

We’re demanding that any association between NIH and Herrera and Arévalo’s many companies cease immediately. We seek the cancellation of the current NIAID contracts and the return of any money paid to Caucaseco and MVDC. We’re also asking for an investigation into the credible claims of lack of scientific integrity.

Please take a minute to send a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, who oversees NIH, as well as to NIH officials, demanding the same.

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