PETA Calls On Seattle Police: Investigate UW Primate Lab After Records Destroyed

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Update: PETA has called on Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz to investigate the University of Washington’s (UW) Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) for an apparent felony violation of state law it destroyed videos and photographs of primates used for experimentation. In December 2021, the King County Superior Court held the primate center liable based on its destruction of the records.

The court’s ruling was part of PETA’s lawsuit against UW for its refusal to turn over videos and photographs of monkeys used by the WaNPRC. Senior WaNPRC personnel—experimenters Elizabeth Buffalo and Eberhard Fetz and the facility’s interim director, Sally Thompson-Iritani—admitted under oath to the WaNPRC’s policy of systemic destruction of these videos and photographs. This policy makes it impossible for the university to comply with the state public records act, which mandates disclosure of public records to preserve transparency and accountability by public officials and institutions, and it apparently violates another state law prohibiting “injury to [a] public record.”

PETA also filed a complaint today with the Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alleging that the WaNPRC violated the Record Retention and Access section of the NIH Grants Policy Statement by destroying the records and apparently violating state and local laws and ordinances. PETA is asking for an investigation, repayment of the millions of taxpayer dollars used to fund these hidden experiments, and the permanent barring of the WaNPRC from receiving future federal grant awards.

Update: December 23, 2021

The National Institutes of Health is investigating the University of Washington’s (UW) National Primate Research Center for its failure to comply with minimum federal guidelines for animal welfare, including a failure to ensure that monkeys are free of infectious diseases. Now the agency can add the intentional destruction of public records—including videos of monkeys being used in invasive and deadly neurological experiments—to its investigation. In a win for PETA’s ongoing efforts to inform the public and hold UW accountable, late today, the Superior Court in Washington ruled in PETA’s favor after the school admitted that it had systematically destroyed photos and videos taken by experimenters in the primate center. The judge stated, “The lack of any policy/system which identified videos/photos which are being destroyed prevents [UW] from complying with the requirements of the [Public Records Act].”

Originally published December 30, 2020:

Monkeys died of thirst and strangulation, staff performed unauthorized surgeries, a missing monkey went unreported, and an animal experimenter’s victims apparently included humans, too—these are just some of the horrors that the University of Washington (UW) couldn’t hide. No wonder it failed to turn over records and other documents associated with its troubled Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC).

But this afternoon, PETA filed a lawsuit against UW to compel it to turn over such records, as required by the state’s Public Records Act.

UW clearly has no problem using public funding (i.e., your money), yet the school balks at letting taxpayers know exactly what they’re paying for (something it’s legally obligated to do), which is why we’re demanding the release of these records.

monkey in cage at UW WaNPRC

A monkey paces inside a small, barren cage at the WaNPRC—a facility where experimenters allowed monkeys to starve, be strangled to death, and choke to death on their own vomit.

As part of our ongoing efforts to inform the public and to hold UW accountable for its violations of animal protection laws and its use of monkeys in experiments, we’ve submitted requests for documents detailing the decision to purchase a rundown, contaminated facility in the Arizona desert where the WaNPRC has been breeding pig-tailed macaques for use in experiments. We’re also requesting documents detailing the WaNPRC’s financial, leadership, and veterinary crises and how these failings led the National Institutes of Health to take the unprecedented step of restricting the WaNPRC’s funding.

A monkey trapped in a cage at the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC)

Monkeys used for experiments at the WaNPRC are housed inside small and virtually barren cages for their entire lives, deprived of companionship and the opportunity to satisfy their innate desire to forage and explore in a vast, natural environment.

In September 2020, we filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over evidence of animal welfare violations at the WaNPRC as well as serious conflicts of interest on UW’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which is supposed to ensure that all animal protection laws are enforced in the school’s laboratories. Acting on that complaint, the USDA cited UW for major violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act—violations that the school then tried unsuccessfully to have erased.

In November, we released the first-ever video showing how monkeys are warehoused at the WaNPRC:

Since then, PETA supporters have sent more than 57,000 e-mails calling for the immediate closure of the WaNPRC and the release of the monkeys there to reputable sanctuaries, where they could live out the rest of their lives with the safety and dignity that they deserve. The WaNPRC has proved for decades that its experimenters will continue to torture monkeys as long as they can get away with it. Click below to be a part of the campaign that won’t stand for such an egregious display of speciesism.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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