It’s both appalling and disturbingly telling that the University of Washington (UW) would hire Michele Basso to lead the troubled Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC), which has been without a director for nearly 18 months. Basso is notorious for being one of the few university experimenters ever to be suspended from using animals as a result of serious welfare violations.
Her time at the University of Wisconsin was marked by a firestorm over the number of monkeys in her studies who died, her unwillingness to abide by regulations or adhere to experimental protocols, and her apparent incompetence.
As the University of Wisconsin chancellor wrote in a memo sent to all faculty on March 19, 2010, “Dr. Michele Basso … has been cited by university animal care committees for a range of problems over a five-and-a-half-year period. Despite repeated efforts and an unambiguous warning by the School of Medicine and Public Health’s … ACUC [Animal Care and Use Committee], problems recurred.”
Michele Basso Performs Messy Brain Experiments on Monkeys
Basso’s experiments involve cutting into the tops of monkeys’ skulls, inserting electrodes into their brains, and implanting tiny wire coils in their eyes. She straps them into a restraint chair and forces them to stare at a screen all day—and she keeps them thirsty so that they’ll cooperate for a sip of water.
Basso’s “problems” in the Wisconsin laboratory, wrote the attending veterinarian, were that she “had significant difficulties with the cranial explant model—many more that other investigators using the same model in the same animal care unit with the same veterinary staff … including failure to follow explicit instructions and reluctance to permit necropsies on animals that die …. There have been multiple instances of proven or suspected brain abscesses, and multiple events involving screws penetrating the dura, leading to either hemorrhage or abscess. Animals have been left unattended for hours in compromised condition …. Medical records are often incomplete or inaccessible …. Recently it was discovered that [Basso] has been inserting unsterilized materials into brain tissue.”
University of Wisconsin officials eventually let her back into an animal laboratory but only under enhanced supervision. That was apparently too limiting, and she moved her cruel experiments to the University of California–Los Angeles, where the local activists with Progress For Science have protested her skull-cutting experiments.
The Michele Basso Appointment Spells More Suffering for Monkeys in UW Laboratories
Basso’s history of disregard for animal protection regulations should disqualify her from leading any animal laboratory anywhere—but especially at the WaNPRC, which has its own long history of violations.
Federal inspection reports reveal that monkeys there suffer because of incompetence and neglect. Monkeys have strangled, died of thirst, been mauled by other animals, and choked to death on their own vomit.
Internal documents obtained by PETA reveal that in one recent eight-month period, the federally funded center had to treat a staggering 332 traumatic injuries (including broken limbs and teeth), more than 200 cases of gastrointestinal problems, 149 cases of significant weight loss, 19 cases of rectal prolapse, and a dozen implant abnormalities.
UW should reconsider this hire immediately and clean up its own act. Basso must be kept as far away from monkeys as possible.