UW-Seattle Workers Allege Fears of Reporting Animal Welfare Violations at Primate Center; PETA Files

For Immediate Release:
July 2, 2024

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


PETA is calling on federal authorities to investigate the University of Washington’s Washington National Primate Research Center following whistleblower reports that staffers are afraid to report violations of animal welfare laws to the school’s leadership. Records uncovered by PETA reveal a toxic and fearful culture at the primate center that jeopardizes the health and safety of monkeys and further undermines the validity of any data from experiments conducted on them.

PETA filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after the center’s attending veterinarian reported that staffers failed to disclose that a monkey suffered a seizure, lost control of the left side of her body, and endured tremors for weeks following a botched brain surgery. Experimenters then reportedly performed a second surgery on her, which was rubber-stamped by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee without considering how the first surgery severely compromised her health. The monkey reportedly never recovered and died from a hemorrhagic brain clot.

PETA also received information that primate center staff failed to disclose the traumatic history of a group of elderly and infirm monkeys who were trucked nearly 3,000 miles to the facility. The monkeys, all previously experimented on at another laboratory, had numerous age-related diseases. One was euthanized due to extremely poor health after arrival.

A whistleblower submitted a complaint days later questioning the need to transport geriatric animals.

“If workers at this failing primate facility don’t feel safe reporting even the most blatant violations of animal welfare law, what workaday cruelty is also going unreported?” says PETA Senior Science Advisor on Primate Experimentation Dr. Lisa JonesEngel. “UW may claim that it’s committed to transparency and best practices, but the revolving door of primate center directors and the repeated violations impacting monkeys and workers tell the real story of a facility in a free fall that must be shut down.”

In June, PETA alerted the USDA to internal documents revealing that hundreds of worker safety incidents—many of which required antiviral and other medical treatment or hospitalization—occurred at the primate facility between 2021 and 2023.

The primate center is currently under investigation by the Washington State Department of Health for the alleged death of a monkey during another botched procedure. Monkeys at the primate center have died from strangulation, starvation, dehydration, veterinary error, and choking on their own vomit. In 2022, a judge ordered UW to pay more than $540,000 in penalties, fees, and interest for trying to keep public records about the primate center’s various crises hidden.

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

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