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Disturbing Monkey Death Underscores Problems with Animal Research Labs

caged monkeyHidden camera video footage taken inside the Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories USA (SNBL USA) by a Washington state undercover news investigator in early November 2007 clearly shows a lab employee placing into the cage-washer a wire cage with a female cynomolgus macaque monkey still inside. The monkey, who was slated to be used in a drug experiment, was boiled alive during the 20-minute washing cycle, which uses 180-degree water, caustic foam, and detergent.

If labs like SNBL USA are careless enough to put an animal through a cage-washer, how can anyone trust their claims that lab employees offer humane treatment to animals used in experiments?

“Accidental” animal deaths like the one at SNBL USA are not uncommon. Here are a few other recent examples:

  • January 2005: Three chimpanzees at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico were electrocuted when their perch came in contact with a 270-volt electric line, according to court papers filed by a New Mexico district attorney.
  • July 2005: Three marmoset monkeys at the University of Wisconsin-Madison primate facility were left in their cage when it was sent through a sanitizing cage-washer. They were scalded to death by sprays of chemical wash.
  • August 2005: Seven monkeys at the NIH National Primate Research Center at the University of California-Davis died after a heater malfunctioned, the temperature rose to 115 degrees, and the water supply ran out.
  • July 2006: A power outage at Ohio State University killed one rabbit and almost 700 mice and rats when temperatures in the laboratory rooms soared up to 105 degrees.
  • August 2007: 102 rats were killed by extreme heat at the University of Georgia when a heating and cooling unit in the psychology building failed. 

Agonizing deaths like the ones listed above often happen in experimental facilities because lab personnel tend to have little concern for the animals. Federal regulators do almost nothing to punish the labs 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 labs usually face much smaller fines—if they are fined at all.   

The incident at SNBL USA underscores the urgent need to stop using animals in medical experiments.


PCRM Online, March 2008

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