UMass-Amherst Faces Open-Records Lawsuit Over Monkey Experiments

PETA Seeks Photos, Video Footage From Taxpayer-Funded Self-Mutilation Studies on Monkeys

For Immediate Release:
March 26, 2019

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Amherst, Mass.

PETA has filed a lawsuit against the University of Massachusetts–Amherst compelling the school to release photographs and videotapes produced as part of a 17-year study examining why and how monkeys confined to laboratory cages engage in self-mutilation. More than $7.8 million in taxpayer funding was put toward the study.

The video clips—which were gathered by experimenter Melinda Novak—were recorded at several laboratories, including those at UMass-Amherst and four federally funded primate laboratories. One of them was the New England Primate Research Center at Harvard, which closed in 2015 following years of violations of federal animal-welfare laws. The Public Records Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had previously determined that these records must be released to PETA under the commonwealth’s open-records law, but UMass has refused to comply, prompting PETA’s lawsuit.

“Primate experimenters know that the public will be outraged if they see videos and photos of psychologically traumatized monkeys confined to laboratory cages, ripping out their own hair and attacking their own bodies,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has already determined that UMass is required by law to release these materials, and PETA will keep fighting to make sure that the university complies with the law.”

Monkeys in laboratories are often confined for years—or even decades—to cramped, barren steel cages and frequently exhibit signs of psychosis and clinical depression, including continually pacing, pulling their hair, and biting themselves. Some even chew off their fingers and toes, behavior that’s unheard of in monkeys in the wild. Novak, the UMass-Amherst experimenter who collected the video records at issue in PETA’s lawsuit, previously published a study that found that 10 percent of monkeys in laboratories mutilate themselves so severely that they require veterinary intervention.

PETA is represented in this case by Alexandra Deal of Deal Law. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.

A copy of the lawsuit is available upon request.

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