‘The Sopranos’ Star Edie Falco Calls For Primate Center to Shut Down

Published by Michelle Feinberg.

Why has Edie Falco—PETA honorary board member and award-winning star of The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie—just left phone messages for 18,000 faculty and staff members at the University of Washington (UW)?

TV shows may have their share of unsettling scenes, but the actor who played Carmela Soprano was still shocked and disturbed by the real-life horrors taking place right inside the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC), located on UW’s campus:

  • Experimenter Thomas Burbacher takes newborn monkeys from their mothers and confines them to a cage all alone—with only a piece of cloth to cling to.
  • Burbacher cut into 35 pregnant monkeys one week prior to delivery and intentionally blocked their umbilical cords to induce asphyxia in the babies at delivery.
  • Experimenter Eberhard Fetz cuts a hole in monkeys’ skulls, inserts electrodes into their brains, and surgically implants wire coils in their eyes. He then straps them into a restraint chair for hours, with their heads bolted in place to immobilize them. He deprives them of food or water so that they’ll comply for a sip of juice or a bit of food.
  • Experimenter Michael Katze infected monkeys with Ebola and watched as they succumbed to hemorrhagic fever, with symptoms including severe muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and both internal and external bleeding. Katze was dismissed after years of making racist and sexist comments.
  • Other experimenters at the WaNPRC have subjected monkeys to total body irradiation. Nearly half of the animals died before the study was completed.

These sickening experiments do nothing to help humans—and even if they did, they’d still be inexcusable. Monkeys are sensitive beings who love their families and want to lead their own lives. They deserve so much better than to be tortured and killed by speciesist experimenters who seem to have no qualms about squandering resources, hurting animals, and delaying medical advancement with antiquated experiments on animals.

Lights, Camera, Spring Into Action: The Sopranos Star Is Using Her Voice to Speak Out Against UW’s Cruelty on Campus

“It’s a secret laboratory on the UW campus. It houses almost 400 monkeys in cages that are only a little bit bigger than their bodies,” Falco says in her message. “[Video footage] shows these monkeys, who never see sunshine, and they are circling, they’re pacing in frustration and distress.”

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

Monkeys used in experiments—like this one—are often housed inside small, virtually barren cages for their entire lives, unable to fulfill their natural desires to live in large family groups, form strong bonds with one another, and play, explore, and socialize together.

Falco reminded everyone receiving her call that the WaNPRC has been investigated and cited for a long list of federal Animal Welfare Act violations, including the deaths of monkeys from starvation, dehydration, strangulation, and veterinary errors.

Every Caring Person—Including UW Staff—Must Speak Up to Shut This Laboratory Down

Falco calls on university staff to look into these issues themselves, encourages them to watch PETA’s video footage, and urges them to contact UW President Ana Mari Cauce and request that she follow Harvard University’s example by shutting down the primate center on campus.

Take Action to End the Cruelty

Join Falco and more than 100,000 PETA supporters in calling for the immediate closure of the WaNPRC and the release of the monkeys to reputable sanctuaries, where they can live out their lives with the safety and dignity that they deserve.

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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