PETA Calls for Criminal Investigation of EVMS’ Apparent Ill-Treatment of Baboons

For Immediate Release:
May 29, 2024

Brandi Pharris 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

In a complaint filed with the Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, PETA is calling for a criminal probe of the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) laboratory of Gerald Pepe after learning through public records requests that mother baboons were subjected to traumatic, invasive procedures without legally required adequate care. The school has a history 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 at least one of which was “repeat.”

PETA’s complaint details the evident ill-treatment of several mother baboons, including Tara, who in less than eight years was subjected to seven pregnancies, including four cesarean-sections at various stages of pregnancy, and had one live birth, and two miscarriages or stillbirths. She suffered for years from chipped and missing teeth due to biting cage bars among other health issues, but the school evidently never adequately addressed her pain nor attempted to alleviate the stress caused by her constant confinement. She was one of the baboons killed by experimenters in March 2024 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the school for subjecting pregnant mother baboons to repeated cesarean sections without requisite federal authorization or scientific justification.

“Over the past nine years, EVMS subjected baboons Alissa, Jemma, Juju, Tara, and Toya to a combined total of 25 pregnancies and 17 cesarean sections,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “But this publicly funded medical school apparently couldn’t be bothered to provide these animals with basic care to address their trauma and alleviate their suffering and should be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.”

A baboon named Nikki, used in pregnancy experiments and confined to a cage at EVMS, rocks back and forth in psychological distress. Image obtained from this video by PETA through the Virginia Public Records Act

Of the six mother baboons cited in PETA’s complaint, five were killed by the school, and the sixth, Alissa, died shortly after her second cesarean-section, which the experimenter performed even though she had lost almost one-third of her body weight over the preceding 16 months. According to USDA documents, the school failed to address Alissa’s chronic weight loss.

Two other baboons used in Pepe’s experiments, Raul and Joy, were killed on April 9—the same day medical school staff told PETA that no baboons remained at its facility. When responding to an April 2 PETA request for records on all the baboons housed there, the school didn’t mention that it had destroyed these primates earlier that day. Pepe’s experiments on baboons began in the 1970s and have yielded no treatments, cures, or even a single clinical trial.

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 or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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