A handful of protestors mingled about the quad on Tuesday, broadcasting accusations of animal cruelty against the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), a UC Davis research laboratory.
The CNPRC was recently named the 16th worst research laboratory for animal cruelty by the animal rights organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN). The protest on campus was part of National Primate Liberation Week, an awareness event with protests planned in 20 cities across the country.
“If these research houses had glass walls, no one would stand for it,” said Linda Middlesworth, a volunteer for both SAEN and the Sacramento Animal Rights Meetup Group.
The CNPRC houses approximately 5,000 primates for research and breeding, according to its website. The vast majority of monkeys are rhesus monkeys, but there are small populations of cynomolgus monkeys and South American titi monkeys as well.
The CNPRC website claims that essentially every major medical breakthrough of the past century has evolved from discoveries made through animal research.
“To cite one example, tests at the Primate Center showed that a drug called tenofovir was effective at treating HIV and could be used in the form of a microbicidal gel,” said Andy Fell, senior public information representative for physical and biological sciences and engineering departments, in an e-mail interview. “Earlier this year, it was announced that a tenofovir gel reduced HIV transmission in women in South Africa – the first time that a vaginal gel has been shown to be effective in preventing HIV infection. Animal studies, including those at UC Davis and elsewhere, made this achievement possible.”
Camilla Kendall, protester and volunteer with Sacramento Animal Rights Meetup Group, is most worried about UC Davis expanding its primate facilities to a level three biocontainment lab, which would allow researchers to conduct experiments using bacteria and viruses that can cause fatal disease from inhalation route.
“I don’t want SARS and anthrax in my community,” Kendall said. “That really scares me.”
According to Fell, studies at the California National Primate Research Center must pass three levels of review in order to be conducted. The center’s own research advisory committee reviews the proposed project to make certain that it is feasible, that the techniques are appropriate and that the study justifies the use of the Center’s primates.
If approved by the Primate Center’s committee, the project must be reviewed and approved by the campus Animal Care and Use Committee. Additionally, the proposed research is reviewed at the National Institutes of Health or other funding agencies.
In addition to primate research, approximately 500 dogs, 400 cats, 450 rabbits and 250 horses are used in experiments at UC Davis.
The university was fined $5,000 for animal care violations that resulted in the deaths of seven cynomalgus monkeys, according to SAEN. In addition, the room the monkeys were housed in was allowed to reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit for hours at a time, according to USDA reports.
“There are not enough people that are determined to stop animal research to make a difference,” Middlesworth said. “If people knew experiments were being conducted on dogs and cats they would never stand for it.
“If people see pets being injured, they scream bloody murder. They would be outraged, but they have no idea what’s going on.”
Members of SAEN and the Sacramento Animal Rights Meetup Group urge those looking to get involved to contact Chancellor Linda Katehi and bring complaints to her attention.
KATIE LEVERONI can be reached at email@example.com.