Monkey Boiled Alive at Experimentation Facility
When an undercover investigator from a local television station went inside Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories USA, his hidden camera showed a laboratory worker placing a wire cage into the cage-washer. The 180-degree cycle lasted 20 minutes. But the laboratory worker had failed to check whether the cage was empty. The macaque inside, who had been slated to be used in a drug experiment, was boiled alive in water, caustic foam, and detergent.
Agonizing deaths like this monkey suffered in November 2007 are common in experimental facilities because laboratory personnel often seem to have little concern for the animals. Federal regulators do almost nothing to punish the laboratories responsible for such “accidents,” and researchers are rarely held accountable for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. The maximum fine for an AWA violation at an animal research facility is $2,500, but laboratories usually face much smaller fines—if they are fined at all.
This is not the first time the Shin Nippon laboratory in Everett, Wash., has had animal welfare problems. The laboratory, which houses about 2,000 primates and conducts experiments for companies like Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, and Seattle Genetics, was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for AWA violations in 2005 after 19 marmosets died. The inspector noted that “highly toxic agents were being injected into animals without the use of methods to relieve pain and distress.” Recordkeeping by the laboratory was so poor that inspectors could not tell if “the animals were receiving adequate veterinary care, or any veterinary care, before they died.”
Shin Nippon USA claims that the employees involved in the November incident were hired and trained by a laboratory worker who had received multiple warnings for failing to adhere to animal-care protocols. However, macaque monkeys make loud barking noises and are easily visible in small lab cages, raising questions about whether or not this monkey’s death was intentional.
These incidents underscore the urgent need to stop using animals in medical experiments. Resources should be put into developing and implementing humane and effective research methods.
ACTION ALERT: How You Can Help
Ask Congress to increase fines for laboratory facilities that violate the Animal Welfare Act, specifically in cases that result in “accidental” deaths of animals in the facilities’ care.