PETA Statement: New UW Primate Center Director Was Once Suspended for Violations

For Immediate Release:
September 3, 2021

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Below, please find a statement from Kathy Guillermo, Senior Vice President of Laboratory Investigations at PETA, regarding the University of Washington’s announcement that Michele Basso has been named director of the Washington National Primate Research Center:

It’s both appalling and disturbingly telling that the University of Washington  would hire Michele Basso as the new director of the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC). Basso is “internationally known” all right—for being one of the few primate experimenters ever to be suspended from using animals because of welfare violations.

Her time at the University of Wisconsin was marked by a firestorm over her unwillingness to abide by regulations or adhere to experimental protocols and her apparent incompetence. As the university’s chancellor wrote in a memo sent to all faculty on March 19, 2010: “Dr. Michele Basso has been cited by university animal care committees for a range of problems over a five-and-a-half-year period. Despite repeated efforts and an unambiguous warning by the School of Medicine and Public Health’s ACUC [Animal Care and Use Committee], problems recurred.”

Basso’s experiments involve cutting holes in monkeys’ skulls, inserting electrodes into their brains, and implanting small wire coils in their eyes. She straps them into a restraint chair and forces them to stare at a screen all day—and she keeps them thirsty so that they’ll cooperate for a sip of water.

If you have a strong stomach, read on: Basso’s “problems” in the Wisconsin laboratory, wrote the attending veterinarian, were that she “has had significant difficulties with the cranial explant model—many more that other investigators using the same model in the same animal care unit with the same veterinary staff, including failure to follow explicit instructions and reluctance to permit necropsies on animals that died. … There have been multiple instances of proven or suspected brain abscesses, and multiple events involving screws penetrating the dura, leading to either hemorrhage or abscess. Animals have been left unattended for hours in compromised conditions. … Medical records are often incomplete or inaccessible. … Recently it was discovered that [Basso] has been inserting unsterilized materials into brain tissue.”

Wisconsin officials eventually let her back into an animal laboratory—but only under enhanced supervision.

Basso’s history of disregard for animal protection regulations should disqualify her from leading any animal laboratory anywhere—but especially the WaNPRC, with its own long history of violations. Federal inspection reports reveal that primates suffer there because of incompetence and neglect. They have strangled, died of thirst, been mauled by other monkeys, 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.

UW scraped the bottom of the barrel for this hire and should reconsider it immediately.  Basso needs to be kept as far away from monkeys as possible.

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