Imprisoned, Impregnated, and Impaired: Alissa’s ‘Life’ of Misery in Med School Lab

Published by .
4 min read

For 18 long years, her body was at the mercy of her captors. They forcibly impregnated her seven times, then took away or killed all her babies. They failed to address her chronic weight loss, which was so severe that she shed 30% of her bodyweight. She died shortly after experimenters forced her to endure a second cesarean section.

She was a “sweet girl” baboon born into captive misery and used in cruel and pointless experiments at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Her name was Alissa. This is her story.

A Mother’s Love

According to records obtained by PETA, Alissa was born to a captive mother baboon at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center on October 5, 2005. Experimenters took her away from her mother when she was just 6 months old, and she spent the next 15 years being forcibly and repeatedly impregnated at the school, enduring five pregnancies, four full-term births, and one miscarriage.

family of baboons in national park

Records are unclear about what happened to Alissa’s babies, but they indicate that she was a doting mother, and experimenters documented “very good maternal behavior.” She also tended to other baboon babies in the colony, nurturing them when their own mothers weren’t around.

She even extended warmth to those who harmed her. Although she was forced to endure captivity and the terror and pain of nonstop confinement and experimentation, documents from the university say Alissa was remarkably sweet in nature and displayed a welcoming friendliness. Laboratory notes are peppered with testaments to her geniality:

  • “Alissa is very calm and has a sweet demeanor, she enjoys human interaction.”
  • “She is a very sweet girl and readily engages in interaction.”
  • “She is a sweet girl and loves the attention.”
  • “This animal is very friendly and comes right to the front of the cage for a visit.”

Victimized in Virginia

When she was 15 years old, Alissa was shipped to Eastern Virginia Medical School, arriving in the laboratory of longtime experimenter Gerald Pepe in October 2020. By that time, she had sustained a fractured tail and was suffering from a genital ulcer and dental decay. Because she was continually confined and deprived of everything that makes life worth living, her physical and mental health deteriorated.

The medical school’s laboratory soured Alissa’s sweet nature and ravaged her body.

Alissa suffered due to genital swelling, tail injuries, a broken tooth, and near-daily blood draws. During one of her pregnancies, she was subjected to approximately 50 blood draws, including a stretch of 14 consecutive days, over the course of eight weeks. Notes taken by laboratory staff after these blood draws included “laying down,” “involuntary movement,” “moving slow,” “unconscious,” and “semi-conscious.” Her psychological distress manifested through self-harm as she began to pull her hair out.

She also suffered from rapid weight loss, which began after she was transferred to the medical school. Within three months of her arrival, she had lost more than 7 pounds, or 17% of her bodyweight. She continued to lose weight after experimenters locked her in a cage with a male “breeder” in February 2021, and the encounter left her with deep cuts across her back and upper body. Her records document “a 30 cm laceration on [her] back extending from shoulder to shoulder” and additional “lacerations and a deep pocket” in the area of her left collarbone.

The records also document that due to these injuries, an abscess—a “large fluid-filled lump” containing “foul odor, white-red thick fluid [with] granules”—developed above her left shoulder. Although her physical wounds healed, Alissa’s psychological trauma resulted in a total weight loss of more than 13 pounds (nearly one-third of her total bodyweight) during her first 18 months at the medical school.

Bred to Death

Alissa was subjected to two cesarean sections at the medical school. Each time, she delivered two baby boys. And each time, experimenters killed them immediately. She never even saw the infants she had carried for six months.

After her second cesarean section, Alissa was left to recover alone in a barren metal cage. She “went into acute cardiorespiratory arrest” and died.

Alissa’s necropsy revealed inflamed lungs, pneumonia, and even “Coal Miner’s Lung.” Her lungs were filled with black carbon deposits, something usually found in smokers and inhabitants of polluted cities. Her heart was riddled with scars and fat deposits, reminders of a painful, terrified existence, exploited in invasive experiments.

Help Others Like Alissa

Eastern Virginia Medical School has been tormenting baboons for more than 40 years and has nothing to show for it: no progress for human medicine, no treatments, and no cures. 

Please TAKE ACTION and urge the school’s leadership to end this pointless cruelty:

Shut Down the Baboon Lab
PETA supporters protest Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS ) over its treatment of baboons in experiments

And if you’re a U.S. resident, please take additional action for animals in EVMS’ laboratories and elsewhere 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
Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.