PETA Sues UMass-Amherst and OHSU for Monkey Experiment Footage

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Update: PETA can only imagine what unspeakable cruelty monkeys must have endured for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to try this hard to bury footage of its experiments.

But PETA sued, and we won.

Read about our victory here.

Originally posted on March 27, 2019:

Earlier this year, PETA filed a lawsuit against the University of California–Davis (UC-Davis) alleging that the school violated California’s open-records law by refusing to release video footage of publicly funded experiments on monkeys. But UC-Davis’ isn’t the only primate laboratory with something to hide. Now, PETA has filed two additional lawsuits—one against the University of Massachusetts–Amherst (UMass-Amherst) and the other against Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)—to compel both schools to release their own photographs and videotapes of experiments on monkeys.

University of Massachusetts–Amherst

As part of a 17-year study, researchers at UMass-Amherst examined why and how caged monkeys in laboratories engage in self-mutilation. In the footage below—taken at a separate U.S. university laboratory—monkeys who’ve endured terror, depression, and loneliness can be seen going insane and exhibiting stress-induced, abnormal behavior:

More than $7.8 million of Americans’ taxpayer money has been put toward the study. The video clips were gathered by experimenter Melinda Novak, who has made a long career out of performing psychological experiments on monkeys.

Her past research found that 10 percent of monkeys confined to laboratory cages mutilate themselves so severely that they require veterinary intervention for their wounds.

The videos in question were recorded at several laboratories, including UMass-Amherst, the Washington National Primate Research Center, the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), the Southwest National Primate Research Center, and the now-defunct New England Primate Research Center at Harvard, which closed in 2015 following years of violations of federal animal-welfare laws.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has already determined that UMass-Amherst is required by law to release these materials, but the university has refused to comply, leaving PETA with no option but to sue. The experimenters know that the public will be outraged if it sees videos and photos of psychologically traumatized monkeys confined to laboratory cages, tearing out their own hair and attacking their own bodies. We will keep working to ensure that the university complies with the law.

Oregon Health & Science University

We’re also suing OHSU to compel it to release the video footage of taxpayer-funded experiments on monkeys at the OHSU-operated ONPRC, as required by Oregon’s open-records law.

Since the beginning of 2017, OHSU has racked up 12 separate violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act—including six “critical” ones—more than any other university in the U.S. during this time period.

We’re seeking footage connected to the laboratory of Elinor Sullivan, whose experiments involve impregnating macaque monkeys, feeding them various experimental diets, separating them from their babies, and deliberately frightening the young monkeys. We previously obtained video footage of an experiment conducted by Sullivan and her colleague Kevin Grove, in which young monkeys were deliberately frightened with a Mr. Potato Head toy.

OHSU has denied our request for video recordings of these experiments, claiming that they are “proprietary and unpublished research information”—but the experimenters in question have already published several papers based on these federally funded experiments, which have no realistic chance of resulting in anything of commercial value. Just like UMass-Amherst, OHSU knows that a public outcry against video footage of experimenters terrorizing young monkeys would jeopardize its cash flow, but the university must be held accountable for its cruel waste of taxpayer dollars.

Monkeys Are Not Ours to Experiment On

The human-supremacist view that monkeys are commodities to be bred, tormented, and disposed of at will is unacceptable. The UMass-Amherst self-mutilation experiments, OHSU’s ongoing abuse of mother monkeys and their infants, and UC-Davis’ “den of horrors” will all come crashing down, just as the baby-monkey experiments did at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PETA is the organization that’s ending animal testing, but we need your help.

Since PETA’s founding in 1980, we’ve been calling for an end to the federal gravy train that funnels billions of our tax dollars each year into cruel and antiquated experiments on animals. We need lawmakers to understand how much money NIH currently wastes by granting funds to laboratories like those at UMass-Amherst and OHSU so that experiments on monkeys and other animals can be performed. And modern, non-animal methods of research are not only humane but also effective, so Congress should be focusing on them. Click below to help us help monkeys:

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“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind