Eastern Virginia Medical School Violated Law in Baboon Pregnancy Study; PETA Calls For End to Experiments

For Immediate Release:
March 15, 2024

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

PETA is urging Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) to end a study in which live babies were repeatedly cut out of five pregnant baboons—in violation of federal law—and to release its surviving victims to a reputable sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which cited EVMS for the violation, recently went a step further and revoked permission for experimenters to conduct the multiple major surgeries on these primates—a rare step for the agency.

A baboon in a cage at EVMS rocks back and forth in psychological distress. Image obtained from this video by PETA through the Virginia Public Records Act

Documents obtained by PETA show that for over 40 years, experimenters at EVMS and their colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with whom they share a federal grant, have impregnated baboons, injected them with hormones, and cut out and killed their babies at various stages of pregnancy. Documents obtained by the group show that hundreds of mother baboons and their babies have been used in these experiments and killed by the two schools. The studies, funded with tax dollars, have not resulted in any treatments for humans.

In 2021, the USDA cited the school for illegally performing up to six cesarean sections per female baboon without scientific justification or approval, as required under the federal Animal Welfare Act. In 2022, the agency then granted EVMS an exemption to the law, allowing it to do multiple cesarean sections if it followed basic experimental protocol—which it failed to do.

But the USDA withdrew its exemption after citing the school for, among other issues, failing to provide treatment to a 16-year-old baboon named Jemma (“ID #26876”) found unresponsive in her cage. She had already been subjected to two prior cesarean sections. Two days after she had been found unresponsive, she was subjected to a third cesarean section. Jemma’s daughter, who was near full term, was killed immediately after the surgery.

“EVMS has illegally and repeatedly cut into Jemma and the other baboons again and again for a pointless study that hasn’t helped a single human,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “EVMS must end four decades of suffering now and send the surviving animals to a sanctuary.”

EVMS has a yearslong record of federal animal welfare violations—including at least eight in recent years, four of which were “critical” (i.e., having a serious or severe adverse effect on the health and well-being of an animal), and one pertaining to the baboon experiments classified as “repeat.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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