Video: Monkeys Driven Mad, Denied Basic Care at Wisconsin National Primate Research Center

PETA Files Federal Complaints After Six-Month Investigation, Wants Animals Relocated to Reputable Sanctuaries

For Immediate Release:
September 15, 2020

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Madison, Wis.

A six-month PETA undercover investigation shows widespread suffering and neglect at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), a taxpayer-funded facility at which nearly 2,000 monkeys are confined small, barren steel cages in windowless rooms. PETA is calling on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate WNPRC for more apparent violations of federal law. The USDA has fined WNPRC’s host institution, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, repeatedly for denying animals basic care—including $74,000 just this spring.

Video footage and photographs show highly intelligent primates who have been driven mad by extreme, near-constant long-term confinement—over two decades for some—deprived of their most basic needs, and treated with cruelty and contempt. One worker said that some of them can’t be housed with other monkeys “because they are a**holes” to one another in the highly stressful grim and substandard conditions, leading them to sustain deep, painful lacerations, fingers so badly damaged that they require amputation, and other injuries from attacks. Other monkeys mutilated themselves or paced and circled endlessly, a well recognized way of trying to cope with mental anguish. Some of them pull out their own hair and end up nearly bald. Many were found to have chronic diarrhea lasting for months or even years. Cornelius, a monkey who has been at WNPRC for a decade and is usually kept in isolation, is constantly found hunched over or with his face pressed against the cage bars. As one supervisor said, staff are “not supposed to say” that monkeys “look depressed … but sometimes they just do.”

Macaques are forced to give birth alone in cages with wire flooring. Terrified mothers and infants cry and frantically try to cling to each other as workers pull them apart. Some infants were put in a bleak basement room before being tattooed for identification purposes. Workers transfer the monkeys from their cages to a restraint chair by the heavy metal neck collars that they’re forced to wear and then electroshock their penises until they ejaculate.

“These are our fellow primates, social and intelligent and desperate to be free from pain and isolation, yet they’re treated like prisoners in a Third World country jail at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center,” says Dr. Alka Chandna, PETA’s vice president of laboratory investigations. “WNPRC receives tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year and yet over the years has shown itself incapable of compliance with even the very minimal animal welfare standards required by law.”

PETA is also calling on WNPRC—which, along with UW-Madison, received more than $300 million in taxpayer money in 2019—to release all the animals in its labs, starting with Cornelius, to sanctuaries and to return the base grant that it receives from NIH.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—is asking supporters to urge NIH to stop using taxpayer money to lock up primates and fund tests on them and instead to focus on relevant, state-of-the-art non-animal research.

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