PETA Prevails in Lawsuit: OHSU Must Turn Over Videos of Monkey Experiments

Court Says Public Has Interest in Worthiness of Experiments, University's Compliance With Animal Protection Laws, and Public Debate on Use of Animals in Laboratories

For Immediate Release:
April 21, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Portland, Ore. – Late yesterday, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled that Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) must turn over to PETA 74 videos of taxpayer-funded experiments on monkeys that took place at the OHSU-operated Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). PETA filed a lawsuit against the university last year, after it denied the group’s open records request for the videos.

The footage is connected to the laboratory of Elinor Sullivan, whose experiments involve impregnating macaque monkeys, feeding the mothers various experimental diets, separating them from their offspring, and deliberately frightening the young monkeys. OHSU denied PETA’s request for the recordings of these experiments, claiming that its work with the videos was ongoing—but experimenters had already published several papers based on these federally funded experiments.

The court stated the following:

“ONPRC has been found in violation of internal and external regulations. …  Some of these violations caused harm to [the primates] .… The public has an interest in seeing ONPRC’s videos .… The public also has an interest in knowing how public [National Institutes of Health] grant funding is being spent and whether the experiments at issue are a worthy use of public funds. Some members of the public, including PETA and its members, believe that behavioral experiments on juvenile [primates] are inhumane and cannot be justified .… [T]here is a public interest, as codified in Oregon’s Public Records Act, to allow these political debates to be carried out with public information and transparency.”

“OHSU was happy to take millions of tax dollars to impregnate monkeys, feed them ‘junk food,’ and then separate the baby monkeys from their mothers in order to deliberately frighten them—but it fought tooth and nail against releasing the videos of this horror,” says PETA Senior Litigation Counsel Martina Bernstein. “The university has lost, but the public has won.”

The ONPRC—which received more than $218 million in taxpayer-funded grants from the National Institutes of Health in 2017—currently holds more than 5,000 monkeys. Other experiments at the facility include forcing the animals to eat lard and addicting them to nicotine and alcohol. PETA previously obtained footage from OHSU of a publicly funded experiment that Sullivan helped to coordinate in which young monkeys were deliberately frightened with a Mr. Potato Head toy. Since the beginning of 2017, the university has racked up more than a dozen violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

A copy of the court’s ruling is available upon request. PETA was represented in this matter by Angeli Law Group, LLC.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is the human-supremacist view that other animals are nothing more than commodities to be bred, tormented, and disposed of at will.

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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