Are Monkeys at Yerkes National Primate Research Center Infected with Novel Coronavirus? PETA Demands Documentation

Suspend All Experiments, Group Says; Monkeys' Exposure to Virus Will Affect Future Experiments

For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2020

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Atlanta – 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 Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC) to suspend all experiments and provide documentation that the monkeys housed there, as well as its staff, have not been exposed to or infected with the coronavirus. 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.

“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—the Yerkes National Primate Research Center may not be able to show that the monkeys it imprisons and the humans it employs haven’t been exposed to COVID-19,” says PETA veterinarian Dr. Ingrid Taylor.

In 2019, the center received more than $11 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 the following: Monkeys died from starvation, strangulation, suffocation, heatstroke, asphyxiation from their own vomit, self-mutilation, being scalded to death after a cage was placed in an automated washer with the animal inside, trauma and shock, and sepsis. Inspection reports reveal that monkeys suffered from debilitating pain and, in one case, died after gauze had been left in an animal’s abdomen during experimental surgery. A 7-month-old female monkey died after having been left behind and forgotten inside an unattended cage. And a juvenile monkey had to be euthanized after a rubber band that had been tied to his wrist became embedded in his body after staff neglected to remove it. Staff had used rubber bands to tie him down while he was being tattooed with an identification number.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center is available here.

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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