Monkey Escapes, Conflicts of Interest, COVID-19 at UW Primate Center

PETA Files Complaint With Feds, Alleging That Monkey Was 'Lost' for Two Days and There's a Lack of Animal Experimentation Oversight

For Immediate Release:
September 2, 2020

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

SeattlePETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after uncovering evidence of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations at the federally funded Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) at the University of Washington (UW). PETA also alleges serious conflicts of interest on UW’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which is supposed to ensure that all animal protection laws are enforced in the school’s laboratories.

PETA has obtained documents showing multiple monkey escapes at the WaNPRC, including ones that have gone unreported to the authorities. The latest escape was in April of this year. For two days, animal-care staff failed to report the monkey’s disappearance to their supervisors. She was eventually found trapped in a tunnel cage, dehydrated and hungry. The IACUC was informed of the incident in May—but in its May, June, and July meetings, it could not agree on disciplinary action for the primate center and decided to take no action, even though escapes are a violation of the AWA.

The documents indicate that escapes are common at the primate center. In a December 2018 internal memo, the WaNPRC’s associate director, Sally Thompson-Iritani, complained about caging issues, saying, “There are currently six different styles of cages, it is not in the best interests of the staff and animals. There have been a number of ‘out of cage’ incidents. Last week, there were a lot of incidents.”

These “out of cage” incidents weren’t disclosed to the IACUC during its meeting on December 18, 2018, as required.

PETA is also urging the USDA to investigate the IACUC for possible conflicts of interest. The committee is supposed to include “public” and “non-scientific” members who represent the interests of the community and the animals. But one of its “non-scientific” members is Ken Gordon, the executive director of the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR), which promotes animal experimentation. UW is a platinum-level donor of the organization—meaning that it donates $25,000 or more to it. Additionally, Thompson-Iritani is president of the NWABR Board of Directors, and several IACUC members serve on the board.

Furthermore, PETA has received information from an insider that a key animal-care staffer tested positive for COVID-19 and possibly exposed other staff and monkeys to the virus, thereby compromising animals’ health and any future studies.

“These documents and conflicts of interest show contempt for federal laws and monkeys,” says PETA Vice President Dr. Alka Chandna. “PETA is calling on the University of Washington to follow Harvard University’s example and shut down its primate center.”

PETA notes that Harvard shut down its New England Primate Research Center in 2013 after considering its multiple animal welfare violations, the difficulty of keeping monkeys in laboratories, and the future of its research priorities.

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 or click here.

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