The Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) is one of seven so-called “flagship primate centers” established and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and one of the largest primate laboratories in the world. Located in San Antonio, the SNPRC is affiliated with Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), which used 3,006 nonhuman primates—including macaques, baboons, and marmosets—in experiments in 2017. An undisclosed number of nonhuman primates were imprisoned at the facility for other purposes, including breeding. Despite a ban on federal funding for chimpanzee experiments that has been in place since 2011, the SNPRC also continues to warehouse 77 chimpanzees in its laboratory, even though the public, members of Congress, and experts like Dr. Jane Goodall have called for the retirement of these animals to sanctuaries. In 2018, Texas Biomed received more than $27 million from NIH, including a $7.9 million core grant to maintain the basic operations of the SNPRC.
Experimenters at Texas Biomed intentionally infect monkeys with viruses such as HIV/SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis C, Ebola, dengue, and Marburg, which may cause them to suffer from acute weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems, and neurological disorders before they die in excruciating pain or are killed. Monkeys are also regularly exposed to a variety of toxic substances, including anthrax. Experimenters at Texas Biomed have injected the neurotoxin MPTP into marmoset monkeys so that the animals develop symptoms that resemble Parkinson’s disease, including severe tremors, abnormal posture, lethargy, and difficulty eating.
Federal inspection reports reveal that Texas Biomed’s sloppiness and negligence have led to injury and death for monkeys at the SNPRC. In a recent incident, two macaques were seriously hurt after an employee failed to secure a latch properly on a divider separating them. A male baboon sustained second-degree burns to his hands and feet after coming into contact with an exposed heating pipe. In 2016, a male baboon lifted a chute door that should have been secured, attacked a female baboon, and killed her infant. In 2013 and 2014, a young baboon died after becoming emaciated and sustaining extensive bite wounds to his body, multiple monkeys died by strangulation when they became entangled in door cables—and no one noticed—and a baboon was killed when a guillotine door fell on him. In 2018, the facility made headlines when four baboons imprisoned there escaped by using a barrel—putting Texas Biomed’s own staff, the public, and the baboons at risk.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fined Texas Biomed nearly $26,000 for repeatedly allowing primates to escape from their cages and injure themselves and others, including humans. This penalty follows PETA’s formal complaint regarding a 2010 incident in which two baboons escaped from their cages and attacked a caretaker—an incident that landed the laboratory, then known as the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, two violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including for failing to handle or house animals safely. The fine also addressed a 2009 incident in which a young monkey escaped from a cage and got outside into the freezing cold. The animal suffered from severe hypothermia and had to be euthanized. Although this fine is “large” by the weak standards of federal animal-welfare enforcement, it’s minuscule by comparison with the many millions of dollars that Texas Biomed receives from the federal government every year to conduct cruel experiments on animals.
Texas Biomed is currently under investigation by the USDA for additional violations.