Exposé: Diseased Monkeys Bred Near Toxic Waste Were Sold to U.S. Labs

PETA Demands That HHS Close University of Washington’s National Monkey Lab and Arizona Breeding Center Near Toxic Waste

For Immediate Release:
October 5, 2021

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Today, PETA called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to shut down the federally funded Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) at the University of Washington (UW) and its breeding center located on tribal land outside Mesa, Arizona. As revealed today in a scathing exposé in The Arizona Republic, the WaNPRC and its breeding facility have sent diseased monkeys to experimenters across the country, violated health and veterinary regulations, operated without state oversight, failed to prevent the introduction and spread of deadly diseases among monkeys, and been repeatedly cited for multiple violations of animal welfare laws—all while breeding monkeys next to a toxic waste site.

“The wrongdoing, violations, and mismanagement at the University of Washington’s national primate center and its breeding facility pose a danger to public health, scientific integrity, and the monkeys used there,” says PETA scientist and former WaNPRC researcher Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel. “For 60 years, UW has fooled the public into thinking that its cruel, wasteful experiments save human lives. That lie has been exposed today.”

Among the issues revealed are these:

  • Pathology reports uncovered by PETA scientists reveal that at UW’s breeding center, multiple unintended infectious agents—including trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), coccidioidomycosis (valley fever), campylobacter, shigella, salmonella, cryptosporidium, MTBC (tuberculosis), and cholera—have been documented. The WaNPRC also regularly shipped sick monkeys from Arizona to Seattle and sold sick monkeys to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control, Tulane University, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University, the Southwest National Primate Research Center, Lovelace Biomedical, and other animal experimenters across the country. In May, the WaNPRC was cited by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, in response to a complaint from PETA, for failing to get the required permits and shipping monkeys infected with pathogens from Arizona to Washington.
  • Because UW’s breeding center is located on land belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community rather than on state land, UW has avoided the usual state requirements for reporting zoonotic disease.
  • The breeding center is located just 500 feet from a designated toxic waste site. Lead, perchlorates, and volatile organic compounds have contaminated the surrounding soil and water—including water used at the center—yet UW failed to alert customers who bought monkeys for experiments.
  • The WaNPRC has had eight directors in the last 10 years and has had its funding temporarily restricted by NIH. UW recently announced the appointment of Michele Basso as its new director. Basso is notorious for being one of the few university experimenters ever to be suspended from using animals as a result of serious welfare violations.
  • The WaNPRC has been cited for multiple serious violations of federal animal protection laws. Monkeys there have strangled, died of thirst, been mauled by other animals, and choked to death on their own vomit. Internal documents obtained by PETA reveal that in one recent eight-month period, the federally funded center had to treat a staggering 332 traumatic injuries (including broken limbs and teeth), more than 200 cases of gastrointestinal problems, 149 cases of significant weight loss, 19 cases of rectal prolapse, and a dozen implant abnormalities.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

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