Suspend All Experiments, PETA Says; Monkeys' Exposure to Virus Will Affect Future Experiments; Reported Leadership Changes, Staff Layoffs Cast Doubt on Oversight
For Immediate Release:
March 31, 2020
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Seattle – Humans aren’t the only primates who can be infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That’s why PETA is calling on the federally funded Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) to suspend all experiments and to provide documentation that the 1,200 monkeys housed there, as well as its staff, have not been exposed to or infected with the virus. Because the virus affects monkeys differently from humans, they are not good “models” for studying the human form of the disease—and if any of the monkeys are infected, future studies involving them would be compromised.
PETA is also concerned that changes in leadership, layoffs, and financial difficulties at WaNPRC—which is part of the University of Washington (UW)—may affect proper oversight and have a negative impact on the animals’ care during this crisis. Reportedly, the executive director for UW’s Health Sciences Administration department has recently been relieved of his supervisorial duties at WaNPRC.
“We are deeply concerned that in the face of a global pandemic—the very reason that primate experimenters claim to need to cage and maintain 100,000-plus primates in laboratories—WaNPRC may not be able to show that the macaques in their care haven’t been exposed to COVID-19,” PETA veterinarian Ingrid Taylor wrote in a letter to UW Provost Mark Richards.
In 2019, WaNPRC received more than $13 million in funding for basic operations from the National Institutes of Health, plus millions more in research grants. The facility has been repeatedly cited for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including for an incident in 2019 in which a monkey died of respiratory arrest because experimenters failed to ensure that he had fasted properly before surgery.
PETA’s letter to UW can be seen here. The group—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.